On Having Two Kids

I knew life would change when we had our second child…but I was not prepared for just how different life would be. Having two kids is not just double the work–it’s 234937826x more work. We have had Caroline for just over 5 months, and we cannot wrap our heads around how much harder life is with two kids. I have absolutely no idea how single parents, how parents with multiples, or how parents with lots of kids do it. Mad respect to all of you! We are a two-kid family. Done.

With two kids, especially with a 3-year-old as the eldest, you cannot just divide and conquer. That toddler…she’s got opinions. My strong, beautiful, opinionated girl might just kill me one day. She is so hard, so much work. I hope this contrary phase is just that, a phase. Whatever we suggest, she does not want it. Unless it’s chocolate or playing with her friends–those things she’s all for all the time. She’s also always down for some Chick-fil-A and some cookies. Otherwise, forget it. If it’s your idea, she’s against it. Bath? No. Play outside? No. Dance party? No. Daniel Tiger? No. Now if those things are her idea? Game on. It’s exhausting. I never really know if I’m going to get my sweet, affectionate, I-want-to-cuddle-you child or my fit-pitching, screaming, ornery child who cannot be pleased. It changes from minute to minute some days. I had heard of the term “threenager” before, but WOW, I didn’t know how accurate that moniker really was. Teenagers I get–I love them, I (mostly) understand them. My threenager is an enigma to me on most days. Her tiny little body can take on the strength of three men when she’s in the zone. Her screams can hit octaves that cause you physical pain. But then, the sweetness…her creative imagination, her dance performances, her big big big hugs and messy kisses, her spontaneous affection and out-of-the-blue, “I love you, Mommy.” Wow. I didn’t know my heart could swell so much. Living with Elizabeth is like living at the beach: beautiful, magical…but then there’s the grit, the storms.

We thought Elizabeth was an easy baby until we had Sweet Caroline. I call her a gold-star baby. She is easy, predictable, not reliant on a strict schedule. If Caroline is crying, I know exactly how to calm her down, and it’s almost instant. Elizabeth had a full-blown witching hour for months when she was a baby. Honestly, E still has a witching hour. Caroline just smiles, coos, and squeals through life…sleeping on-the-go, getting passed around, hanging out on her play mat with her toys. Easy peasy.

So many friends have told us that this is the hardest year, the first year of having two kids. Jon and I remind ourselves of that constantly, even though we really know that there are more hard phases to come. Thank goodness we have each other, that we work every day to strengthen our marriage, that we reflect on how we can make life better for each other. We fail plenty of days, and we fight and fuss more than we would care to admit, but at the end of every day, we know this is the life we built together and this is the life we are going to choose every day for the rest of our lives.


Two Months with Sweet Caroline

It’s about time I wrote about my baby, my sweet girl who, apparently, wants to be just like her sister. Caroline Rose entered this world in an eerily similar fashion to Elizabeth: five weeks early, breech, strong, beautiful. They look so much alike that I have to look twice at pictures to figure out which baby I am looking at. Caroline is such a good baby: predictable, consistent, easily consoled. I have been home with her for 8.5 weeks, and I have absolutely loved every minute, especially now that my body is fully healed from the C-section. Recovering from my surgery with a toddler and a newborn was one of the hardest times of my life. Thank goodness for my sweet husband and my amazing mother! For the first five weeks, Caroline took a bottle every two hours, like clockwork, which means that for five weeks, I never got more than 60-90 minutes of sleep. I felt like I was living underwater–forming complete sentences was a struggle. I apologize to all visitors we had during that time–I have no memory of our conversation and was probably wishing I was asleep every minute you were here. But thank you so much for your thoughtfulness and generosity, especially to those of you who brought food!

These days, Caroline sleeps 4-5 hours at night, and let me tell you, a woman can just about do anything on four hours of sleep. Game changer. After the holidays, we will start a sleep training schedule to hopefully get over the hump of 6-8 hours of sleep. My kingdom for eight hours of sleep!

Our days are mostly spent snuggling. I am painfully aware that this is my last baby, my last chance to freely hold and snuggle a baby, my baby. I will never get this much time at home again…until retirement, I guess. I am truly savoring every moment, at the expense of a scrubbed kitchen, folded laundry, vacuumed carpet, clutter-free corners and tables. I’ve never been more thankful to be able to afford a cleaning lady!

Elizabeth is a sweet big sister who loves to help the baby, especially when she is crying. She loves to put the paci back in the baby’s mouth, turn on the swing, and read to her. She pulls up a little chair beside the swing and “reads” her books to the baby. It’s just about the most beautiful thing I’ve ever seen. I’ve never been more proud of Elizabeth.

Jon is fully committed to his world of girls, showering us all with love and attention and fun. He is learning the world of Barbies, snuggles, hairbows, and braids. He really was always meant to be a daddy of little girls, sweet man that he is.

On Getting my Doctorate

I did a thing, a really big thing. I completed my Doctorate of Education in 3.5 years. Last Sunday, I was hooded at the University of West Georgia December graduation, and it was one of the proudest moments of my life. Doctoral students get to graduate first, so I was the third person to cross the stage, leaving a few hundred names to be called after me, which left me with a significant chunk of time to think. As I reflected on the experience, I became verklempt.  What an emotional journey this has been. From my seat, I could see my family and their proud faces cheering me on. Seeing Elizabeth witness my accomplishment was so emotional for me. Her mommy has her doctorate. When I started the program in May 2014, I was six weeks pregnant, and unsure whether I was really going to be able to go through with this whole graduate school thing. Elizabeth was born at the end of my second semester in the program, and my professors for Spring classes were absolutely wonderful to work with while I was on maternity leave. After that next summer, Jon and I realized that I had gone too far to quit. Too much money. Too much time. I had to keep going. But man, did I want to quit. It was SO HARD. The next year, course work morphed into dissertation work, and that’s when shit got real. I was already used to doing schoolwork after we put Elizabeth to bed each weeknight, and I was already used to spending a chunk of Saturday and a chunk of Sunday doing assignments, but when I added writing actual chapters of my dissertation to the mix, the seriousness of the work was compounded significantly. I wasn’t just cranking out discussion posts, projects, and papers; I was writing my dissertation, a document I would live with for the next two years, a piece that, when finished, would leave me changed in its wake. Right after writing Chapters 1-3 and defending my dissertation proposal, I got pregnant with Caroline. I love that my program started with a pregnancy and ended with my seven-week-old second child. My girls were with me all the way. They will always know Mommy as a doctor.


My topic was an investigation into the underrepresentation of women at the secondary principalship, studied through the lens of the career aspirations of female high school assistant principals. The hundreds of articles and books I read ignited my little social-justice heart and truly changed the way I see parts of the world and how I do my job. I love my topic and in a masochistic way, I miss living with it. Actually, I don’t think I’m ready to leave it–I’m considering reaching out to journals and trying to get an article published. The marginalization of women is a hot topic in current events right now in the light of dozens of revelations of sexual harassment by powerful men, and my study looks into the marginalization that female leaders experience in education, especially at the secondary level.

If doctorates were easy to get, many more people would have one. It was, by far, the hardest thing I have ever done. The work is mind-blowing. The amount of reading and writing I have done in my coursework and dissertation is monumental. The professors are challenging. The balance is impossible to reach at times. For 3.5 years, I have not watched much television. I have not read a single book for pleasure. I have not been the wife, the mom, the friend I want to be. The time just has not been there. So many people have asked, “How do you do it?! You’re an AP, a new mom, AND you’re getting your doctorate?!” I just smile and shrug my shoulders because, honestly, I have no idea how I did it. I just did. I had tremendous support from Jon and from my mother so that I could work on the weekends and evenings. I missed out on a lot of fun things. I just did the work. It was important to me, and I love to learn. I really will miss being a student.


On the Eve of Elizabeth’s 3rd Birthday

Tomorrow my baby turns 3. THREE! To say she has been the light of my life for the last three years would be, well, perfectly accurate. Elizabeth, you are such a joy. You are full of love and light. You are tender, sensitive, funny, and smart. Your little world was rocked seven weeks ago with the birth of Baby Caroline, and you have surpassed all expectations I had of you as a new Big Sister. You are so sweet and concerned when the baby cries, suggesting that she needs her paci and putting in her mouth for her. You know to have clean hands before touching the baby. You are sharing your parents so beautifully, and our family is now complete with our two girls. Here are some things I want to remember about how magical you are…

Your favorite things to play are hide and seek (you are so bad at hiding!) and doctor. You  pretend your toys are hurt and they always need a pink bandaid to feel better.

You sleep in your Big Girl Bed every night and never get out of your bed. When we talk about things that will happen the next day, you say, “When I wake up?”

When we are driving, you yell SCHOOL BUS every time we see one, and you look to see if there are kids riding it. You also like to spot convertibles and motorcycles. We say prayers for emergency vehicles. You constantly ask which way we are going. This way or that way? (We are using this to teach you left and right.) Every single day when I pick you up you ask to go to Kroger and get a cookie. Every day. Ms. Toy works in the bakery at Kroger and she always makes sure you get a cookie. Pink cookies are your favorite.

Your bargaining skills have improved. You ask for two minutes, just a little bit longer, and just one more time when we try to transition away whatever you are doing. I give in more often than I care to admit.

You have learned to glide on your balance bike. You can run fast but you don’t always watch where you are going.

You can sing Jingle Bells, Humpty Dumpty, Twinkle Twinkle Little Star, You are my Sunshine, Let it Go, Do You Want to Build a Snowman, Wheels on the Bus, Row Row Row Your Boat, ABCs, I’m a Little Teapot, and Happy Birthday, but you say, “Had a Birthday to you…” instead.

You would choose to be naked all the time if we would let you. You prefer to wear dresses if you must wear clothes.

Dance class with your friends is your favorite thing to do during the week. You are learning so much in ballet!

Shows you love right now are Doc McStuffins, Daniel Tiger’s Neighborhood, and Peppa Pig. You still love Frozen, but you call it Elsa Anna.

Our bedtime routine is a long bath where you play so sweetly with your toys, a bargaining discussion of whether you have to wash your hair, and then you love to go get your stuffed giraffe and run through the rooms upstairs saying, Giddy up! When we finally get in the bed, we read at least three books, usually more. You absolutely love books. Tonight as I was putting you to bed, we were reading our last book, and you said, “Mommy, I don’t know how to read. You teach me?” My heart just about exploded.

You love the color pink and will always ask to eat off of your pink plate or pink bowl. Your favorite foods are cereal and milk and PBJs cut in the shape of a heart or a flower.

You made me a mommy three years ago, and changed me forever. I love you, love you, sweet girl.

Pregnancy: Just over the Bump

I’m just over halfway through my second pregnancy, and I am struck by how different this one is from my first. I hate to admit this, especially in writing, but I have really struggled with this pregnancy. I am so tired, so overwhelmed, and so busy with Elizabeth and my dissertation that I haven’t had–or taken–the time to be amazed by the miracle that is going on inside. Yesterday marked a shift for me. For most of the morning and again later in the afternoon, Baby Girl was a little ninja, giving me the pleasure of feeling her move all over my tummy. It was the first time that she moved for so long that I was 100% sure it was her and not…gas. I was in a workshop and as I was listening to the presenter or reading a passage, I would just smile as I felt her do her little dance moves inside. How special of an experience it is to carry a child. How lucky and blessed I am to be able to do it. I didn’t really know it, but I needed yesterday to get my head and my heart on track with this pregnancy. Up until now, I mostly just resented the restrictions (good god I miss wine) and felt tired and scared that something was wrong with the baby. And my back is already aching, which is not a good sign for the 18 weeks left to come. But I’m growing a tiny human. She and I are together all day every day. We’ve already started bonding, a process that no one else can start until she is born. I already love being her mommy.

Other not-so-sappy things I love about pregnancy:

  • My protruding tummy pulls in my love-handles, so my sides are much smoother and more taut
  • I don’t dwell on my hips and thighs, problem areas I’ve bemoaned since I was 12, because my tummy gets all of my attention
  • I absolutely love to eat, pregnant or not, so now I can eat more often and feel fully justified
  • Clothing choices are simple because I don’t have a whole closet full of maternity clothes

Five months down, just over four more to go…here’s hoping she doesn’t make an early debut like her Big Sister did!

At 2.5 Years…

At 2.5 years, she is the most fun she’s ever been. With more language come fewer tantrums and (a bit) more reasoning and understanding. It’s such a joy to watch her little wheels sort things out in her brain as we talk. Below are some of my favorite things she’s saying and doing right now:

I do my own self!

I love ____! It’s my favorite!

__________ is the best ever!

Silly mommy! Silly daddy! Silly Pepper!

When she hears a car engine roar, she yells, “Slow down!”

She says, “What’s that noise?” all the time.

I happy, Mommy!

She calls strawberries “strawbabies”

In the backseat, she tells me to go faster. If I tell her I can’t because of traffic, she says, “Go traffic, go!”

She loves to bargain, but she doesn’t have her number sense yet. If I tell her she has five more minutes, she says, “No, two minutes!” She also loves to ask for “one more” of whatever she is doing.

She talks a lot about the weather. “It’s sunny!” “Rain, rain, go away!”

If I get to daycare after 5pm to pick her up, she says, “Mommy late!”

Yesterday I sat down beside her to eat breakfast. She reached over, grabbed my hand, and said, “Best friends. Mommy and Izbef.” I cry every time I retell that and I am crying as I write it now. Below is the pic I took of us holding hands while we ate our breakfast together.


She loves to ride her blue balance bike and her red tricycle. She has made so much progress on both of them in just a few weeks.

She is doing great at potty training–we certainly still have to remind her, but she goes regularly with few accidents and loves feeling like a big girl. “Babies wear diapers. Big girls wear panties! I wear panties!”

At the pool, she mostly enjoys being in the baby pool with her toys, but she is getting braver at jumping in the big pool to us and going underwater. Going to the pool is one of her most favorite things–she asks to go every single day. Yesterday we got our suits on after I picked her up, but on the way there it started raining and she yelled at the rain to stop so that she could go swimming.

On June 10, we threw her a little Half-Birthday Party. She was over-the-moon excited about it! We rented a bouncy house, had cupcakes, and invited a few little girlfriends over for a morning party in our front yard. Having a December birthday is tough, and this was a fun way to celebrate outside. We had the bouncy house all weekend, which she loved, but they came and took it down on Sunday while she was napping. When she realized it was gone, she said, “Aww! I miss it so much!”

Now that it’s summer and I have a few weeks off, we have sweet, slow mornings together. I get her out of her crib when she wakes up and we cuddle in my bed and watch Peppa Pig. She reaches over and pats my cheek as we snuggle up together. I have to drop her off by 9am at daycare, but she begs to “stay with my mommy.” It’s so hard to balance being the mom I want to be for her and finishing my dissertation data analysis, a chore I must complete this summer to be able to graduate in December…three weeks after Baby Sister is born.



The 2s so far…

We are a few weeks into having a two-year-old, and it seems like she changes a little bit every single day. She is saying more complete sentences, including but not limited to:

What you doing, Mommy?

Where we go, Mommy?

I watch Elsa Anna, Mommy.

I want to play, Mommy.

I take bath. Mommy take bath. Bubbles!

Her newest sentences have thrown me: “I don’t want to” and “My do it.” Game changers. I have come to accept that bribery is a perfectly acceptable parenting strategy. We just don’t have all morning to decide which pants we are going to wear. Or if we are going to wear pants at all.

She says words with passion. With whine in her voice. How does she know how to do that? How does she know how much inflection changes her message? It’s incredible, really. She cracks me up every single day. I bet when people drive past us in the car, they think I’m a smiling fool because I am always laughing at something she is saying or doing in the back seat.

She is also very interested in family dynamics. She identifies the mommy, daddy, and the baby in most books, shows, and movies. We are working on other family dynamics that she knows but doesn’t see as often: families with two daddies, two mommies, only one parent, grandparent, etc. She learns so fast.

A favorite thing right now is when we take her clothes off for a bath, we say, “RUN!” She takes off running naked through the upstairs rooms, laughing and screaming for a few minutes before bath time. It’s basically the cutest thing I’ve ever seen.

Some things are harder than they used to be and some things are easier. All things are better because she is ours.