Southerners

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Our family relocated from Chicago to Tennessee this past Winter. It was an incredibly difficult decision. We felt committed to raising our boys alongside friends in our one-of-a-kind urban neighborhood. I was also so fortunate to have my siblings and six out of ten of our nieces and nephews living in state. Yet, the needs of our family were pressing hard against the walls of our home. We began dreaming of a home that could hold us, literally and figuratively, and we wanted Tennessee. 

Tripp and I met in Tennessee, he grew up here. We attended Belmont University together. We got married and had our first home here. Every year, for the past 9 years, we've driven down to Tennessee to visit family. 

Last Fall, Tripp received a job offer from a company in South Nashville and we started our move. As difficult as it was to make the decision, it was more difficult saying goodbye. So many tears, and so many broken hearts. Ours, our friends and our family's. 

We eased slowly into our life here as Southerners. Although, we've landed in an area of largely transplants. (Truthfully there's nothing southern about my family except for my Husband.) First, we lived in a two bedroom temporary apartment with wonderful amenities (dishwasher, washer dryer in unit, on site workout facility, and forest). We watched the Cubs win the World Series and Trump win the presidency during those two months. Before Christmas, we moved into our house. Around this time, we had three dear friends from Chicago visit as well as my parents. 

Becoming Southerners (which my children may do, and my husband is, but I aspire to be) has not been as easy as pie, but proves incredibly sweet. We have found a place that holds us. We are Christians, so we attribute all gifts to God. We believe that God gifts are different for us here, than they were in Chicago, but that they are so good. We appreciate that hills roll in the distance and that the boys can watch turkeys gather in our backyard. We love, love, love, love the food. Parking for free at the Zoo by the entrance and bumping into friends is wonderful. I pick up eggs from a small farmer in the mini-fridge on his porch and leave cash. I do feel things move slowly, and right now I love that. We're outside a lot, finding A LOT of bugs, and riding a lot of bikes. The latest gift that keeps on giving in our neighborhood school. That's a post for another day. 

We're 'pinch me' thankful. 

 

Returning after a pause

Hello reader. I've taken a much needed pause from freelancing and I'm happy to write that it's time to get back to work. During my break, I did squeeze in a few very neat design projects. It's difficult for me to turn down work, especially as a mom with young children, because my work makes me feel good about myself.

At the same time, freelancing also makes me feel terrible because perfection is impossible. There's no perfect project or client or day or outcome. There are no guarantees that even my income will be spent well or invested wisely. Failure is inevitable and in fact, it's invaluable. 

Why is failure invaluable you ask? Well, as I've sought to find the best balance of life, work, love, and family - I've more consistently failed more than I succeeded. And, I now have 3 sets of eyes (my three little boys) watching me fail. So I've asked myself, if I'm failing - is my life valuable? The answer is yes. It's very valuable to the 3 sets of eyes watching me. They need to have a category for failure. They will be in my shoes soon enough. We're Christians, and believe that failures do not negate our value to God. This concept challenges me, so I know it will challenge them. 

It feels very good to be 'back'. And I hope it goes well. And when it doesn't, the experience will be invaluable. 

I worked on a cattle ranch logo for a friend during my break, have a look at our first draft below. A lot of the ideas were supplied in sketches by the client. Can you guess which one was just recently turned in to a cattle brand?



All Tied Up

I'm a designer and mother of 3 boys who has great interest in the topic of breastfeeding. Read on if you do as well, or click away and visit again soon :)

My life has been greatly impacted by a condition called 'tongue-tie'. In oder to convey my challenges and successes thoroughly and candidly, I want to share about them here in my notes. 

Here is a definition from mayoclinic.org:

Tongue-tie (ankyloglossia) is a condition that restricts the tongue's range of motion. 

With tongue-tie, an unusually short, thick or tight band of tissue (lingual frenulum) tethers the bottom of the tongue's tip to the floor of the mouth. Tongue-tie can affect the way a child eats, speaks and swallows, as well as interfere with breast-feeding.

All three of my sons have tongue-tie (and lip-tie). However, I wasn't informed until until my third son refused to breastfeed at 4 days old. The more I reflect on my struggle, discovery, and success the more I can't believe how little I knew and how lucky I was. 

Struggle

I've generally been aggressive about troubleshooting feeding issues. When my first son was two weeks old, I drove 20 minutes to visit a La Leche Leage Leader in her home to receive help. The soreness I experienced during feeding was unlivable. I received great help in how to better position for feeding and felt it would solve the issue of soreness. Sadly by week 5, my son was now teetering on low weight, not sleeping well and constantly fussing. A friend and retired CLC helped me assess that he may have dairy induced reflux. I removed all diary and soy from my diet and within about 4 weeks his feedings and sleep improved. My soreness turned into numbness with occasional wincing pain. I returned to work at 6 mo. post partum and pumped the rest of his first year. 

When my second son was three weeks old, my sister in law came to spend a week with us. I distinctly remember crying and nursing while talking with her. My second son was such a sweetly tempered baby that we got on a feeding schedule quickly. Since I wasn't feeding him around the clock, like my first with the weight issues, I thought our feeding experience was successful. I breastfed him with mild discomfort for 14 months. We also tackled thrush together.

Four days into my third son's life, he refused to breastfeed. I had heard of this happening before, but never understood how a baby could refuse to be fed. Going into that feed, he was getting increasingly fussy and wouldn't latch. I tried to calm him and position him correctly, but he wailed. I felt determined and worked with him until it had been about 4.5 hrs since the last feed. He had already dropped weight significantly in the hospital, so I knew I needed to move on to pump and bottle immediately. I felt so defeated and embarrassed that I was stumped in an area that was so important to me.

Over the course of the next week, I tried EVERYTHING. I talked to EVERYONE I knew who had any experience or wisdom on the subject. My pediatrician said that she did not see a tongue-tie issue but empathized and recommend I call an IBCLC that she saw with her daughter. I started with the inexpensive option and called a La Leche League leader. A fellow mom and experienced doula strongly suggested the possibility of tongue-tie, so I pursued that in our conversation. The LLL Leader concurred and referred me to a pediatric dentist. I still felt my scenario was hopeless, and wanted to weigh the pros and cons of also seeing an IBCLC. It wasn't until day 7 of pumping, bottling and taking care of my other two young sons, that I decided professional help would be worth any cost. 

Discovery

On day 10, I decided to forgo the IBCLC and directly assess tongue-tie. Calling Dentistry 4 Kids at opening, we were immediately scheduled for an appointment that morning. I asked a friend to babysit my 2 year old, and my oldest came with me. I packed a 3 oz. bottle of newly pumped breastmilk for the next feed.

The dental office was a 4 year old boy's dream come true - disney movies, climbing structure, blocks and trucks galore. For our appointment, we sat in a comfortable office on a large sofa, surrounded by even more toys. Hudson and I received full attention, empathy and assessment for his sure fire tongue-tie AND lip-tie. After I received a detailed explanation of the release procedure, care and expected results, Hudson was gently carried out. The nurse and pediatric dentist returned with a slightly teary eyed baby tightly latched on to his pacifier. They handed him to me and advised that I try to nurse him. Dimming the lights, we were left to face our fears and watch Toy Story. THE BOY FED and I had no discomfort. I tossed the bottle of milk we brought.

Success

The next 24 hours were very difficult. Hudson was fussing like he had before, but I was told he would have soreness from the procedure. Since his weight was up, I decided to not offer a bottle. His fussing went from 45 minutes, to about 15 minutes, to about 5 minutes before each feed. This meant I was exhausted and managing three fussing children with high demands. However, nothing could extinguish the joy and gratitude I felt. Feedings improved and normalized and we returned for our next two follow-up appointments with good reports. Today, I have no discomfort and Hudson is our heaviest 4 month old boy yet.

I had the pediatric dentist also look at my two older sons to look for lip and tongue ties. After talking with him about the pain I had experienced in feeding them as babies, I was sure the issue had run in our family. It had.

It absolutely takes a village to breastfeed but I would never have known that going into motherhood. I assumed that I would naturally and instinctively master the art of or at least work to get there with the help of internet research. Unfortunately nature, instinct, and internet research failed to help me and my first two tongue tied babies. I cannot tell you how many tears were shed in pain and then finally in resolve over this issue. If I could turn back time, I would have pressed the hospital staff to have a professional asses my newborn's tongue and lip ties. Moving forward, I'm motivated to help other mother's consider the issue and proactively share to whoever will listen. 

At our third and final follow-up appointment with the pediatric dentist, I was asked to share my story. They recorded a video to be presented to a dental gathering in Chicago. I was definitely nervous and not entirely comfortable discussing the details of feeding logistics but thrilled to be a part of getting the word out. I feel incredibly lucky to be where I am today.

If you're a mom with feeding issues that may be linked to tongue or lip ties, I strongly recommend bypassing all the little check points and going straight to the professional who performs release procedures OR starting with a lactation consultant who has a history of identifying and successfully treating mothers and infants with this issue. The moment your case is dismissed by someone who's trusted, but not trained, it will become more difficult to pursue further and you won't see the value in the cost of treatment. Health insurance needs to 'cover' (based on your plan) the procedure as medically necessary since it's a feeding issue. 

Wild Winter

I knew that bringing another baby into the Grant home was going to have it's challenges. Parents have asked me, 'How is it having 3?' Recently I answered, 'My life is over!' but I realized, after reading the distressed looks on the parents of two precious little girls, that I should have added a disclaimer. We absolutely love our three little men, but this winter has been, to put it kindly, wild

Hudson was born December 5th of last year. Between his birthday and this week, there have been at least 10 doctor's visits, 6 instances of puke, 2 medical procedures, 2 hospitalizations, and probably 50+ social plans (including Christmas, New Years and Super Bowl) cancelled or rescheduled. I realize with 5 [weakened] immune systems susceptible to various bacteria and viruses, total family health and happiness is a lot to ask for. When I was in the hospital with Hudson for RSV over Super Bowl weekend, the visiting pediatrician told me that she and her 3 kids only make tentative plans November-March. We will too. 

On top of illness, Winter is our indoor season and that is tough for three little men and one mama. I've given in to mattresses, pillows, blankets, and toys taking over any area of our flat at any time. However, these actives that burn energy for littles burn free time for mom. At the end of the day I joke with my husband Tripp, 'well, the nanny showed up today, the cook showed up, but unfortunately that darn maid hasn't made it here in days.' Add illness and canceled plans, and our indoor season was largely spend in 1600 square feet of my domain. 

With one baby, I was lucky to have about 4 hours a day of nap-time free time. With a toddler and a baby, that went down to about 2 hours. Now with a preschooler, a toddler, a baby and sometimes a sick spouse, nap-time free time is a mythical creature. 

I wish I could speak to growing our family under normal terms. But really, what is normal in a home with more little people than adults? I speculate that the third addition brings us all through wild seasons. Here's to hoping for a sweeter Summer. 

While you were feeding

When I feed my infant, my 'hands are tied' and I'm unable to do other things. While this is good news for Hudson, my infant, it's even better news for his older brothers. Hudson is almost 3 months old and by now these events have taken place 'While I was feeding'...

  • Both couches are dismantled and turned into giant beaver damns

  • All containers of toys are taken to the 'garbage' in the corner of our living room and dumped

  • Dining room chairs are used as step stools to retrieve contents from the kitchen cabinets, mainly carbs

  • Water color paint is applied to various clean surfaces in the home; cabinets, newly painted walls, cheeks and hair.

  • Plastic animals are piled into the hall bathroom for a bath, sometimes the bath runneth over

  • My two year old acquires new battle wounds

  • Whole outfits, including socks and shoes, are removed and replaced with capes, gorilla feet, or nothing at all

  • Paper shreds, freshly shredded, are danced and frolicked all over the place

Basically, while I feed my infant, my two sons have the time of their lives. OR at least they do until someone's bleeding.