Thursday, November 22, 2012

Thanksgiving 2012

So thankful to God for:
My husband...
who loves me more than I love myself
who doesn't just tolerate me, but pursues me, when I am grumpy
who puts his clean clothes away without me asking {and before I even put mine away!}
who keeps God first in his life, in theory and in practice
who is always quick to forgive
who is a wonderful example of generousity
who isn't afraid to set high goals and work hard for them
who writes me love notes and sends me sweet text messages
who has no idea how absolutely wonderful he is
who is a fun and dedicated Dad to our babies
who has loved and cherished our children from the very earliest moments of their existence
who rises with our early riser {whomever it may be} and lets me sleep for a little longer
who is strong enough to play soccer for a living but
who is tender enough to cry at the births of our babies
who makes me feel like the only woman in the world
who knows what it truly means to love another

My little boy...
who loves to help me cook
who is empathetic and sensitive, giving loves to those who need them, and
who is also fiesty at times {have you seen him with Tavian...}!
who thinks a big scoop of peanut butter is the best dessert ever!
who taught me how to be a Mom
who is more persistant than anyone I know
who still loves to cuddle with me
who gives the best good morning hugs ever
whose bed head could brighten anyone's 7am
who makes me proud and makes me laugh everyday
who still takes good, long naps
who loves Jesus

My baby girl....
who gives me kisses on demand
who smells so good
who snuggles in bed with me
who melts my heart when she says, "mama"
who showers me with love and smiles even though she hasn't had the easiest baby life
who has extremely smoochable cheeks
who brings me great joy anticipating all we will do together that I didn't get to do with my Mom
who would rather be in my arms than anywhere else
who has the cutest, scrunchy nose face ever
who makes me wish time would stay still so she would grow up so fast

My home...
that is near my family
that is big enough to sleep lots of babies {and guests}
that is warm
that has swings! {any bad day in toddler-land can be cured with a go on the swing}

My faith...
that gives me reason to hope
that encourages me to seek for Truth
that pushes me to grow
that allows me to encouter Jesus in the Eucharist
that keeps me going when things are hard

My Family...
who laughs with me
who can share in, and understand, my experiences as a parent
who loves me, particularities and all
who will always be there

My best friend...
who I would choose as a sister even if I wasn't already blessed with her as one
who truly listens
who, after Luke, is the first person I would call for anything and everything

...And so much more.  I am so thankful today, and everyday, for all my many blessings!

Happy Thanksgiving!!

Sunday, November 18, 2012

The Big 3-0!

Totally wrote this forever ago but didn't ever upload the pictures for it...until now.  Doing some serious house cleaning on my "draft" box. :)
Someone sneaked right out of bed and joined the party.
I can't say I blame him :)
So, I turned 30 a couple months ago.  Unlike the years between 22 and 29, which are all fairly anticlimactic, 30 seems to be the age when society deems you older-ish, or at the very least, a real adult.  I still feel like I should be in my twenties, but when I see college students I wonder why they look so young...until I realize, it's really that I look old. :)  Regardless, I feel so blessed with each and every day that God has given me.  I could not be happier to be married to my soul mate and to have two beautiful children.   

We had a couple celebrations to commemorate the big day. A bunch of friends, as well as my sisters and Dad, came over for an adult party at our house. We had a great time, and it was nice to catch up with some friends that we haven't seen for awhile.
Best of Friends since 7th grade.  Reason 573,834 I love Colorado. 
My Dad is pretty great.
It has been years since all three of my sisters have been in the same place to celebrate my birthday.
+tiny Teagan, only days old. 

Old friends. 
Thomas mentored Luke when he was at Seton Hall,
he was a fellow missionary during my years with FOCUS
...and he introduced me to he is pretty awesome.
Then a couple days after my birthday, several members of Luke's family {7 to be exact} came to Colorado to join in on the party.  It was nice to have both sides of our family together for a couple of dinners while they were in town. 
The Vercollone gang--Luke's parents and five of his siblings.

Totally candid, real-time photo of Mary rolling a Yahtzee!
Seriously was just planning on taking a boring picture of our game playing when...
When you have that many candles, you need some help blowing them out :)
My top three goals for this year are to:
1)  Grow spiritually.
2)  Grow as a Wife and a Mom.
3)  Grow a baby!! :) 

Wednesday, October 3, 2012

Could he be cuter?

I promise I will not make a habit of posting pictures of my children on the potty, but seriously, could he be any cuter?! 
First thing in the morning.
His favorite one-piece footy pajamas hanging down.
Giant Calvin n' Hobbes book to keep him entertained.
Love him.

Tuesday, October 2, 2012

Who Says it has to be Itsy Bitsy?

Confession:  I haven't worn a one piece bathing in about 15 years. 
The last one I remember wearing was a navy blue Speedo commemorating the {then current} 1996 Olympic Games--totally sporty, not fashionable. 

Swim suits are a hard issue for me.

For the past several years, I have had a huge war waging in my head over them.  On the one hand, I don't want to give bikinis up because they are cute, I have a bunch of them already, and they are so much easier to shop for than one pieces.  If Luke and I had our own private beach, I would wear them forever!  But, on the other hand, I feel self-conscious wearing a bikini because it doesn't feel right to be showing so much skin. 
A couple years ago I tried on a few singlets, and I ended up running from the dressing room!  They pulled up in the wrong places, pulled down in the wrong places, and were very uncomfortable.  I was disappointed because, at this point in my life, they would be a more genuine expression of where my heart is, and I was hoping to find a one piece that was comfortable--and, to be honest, flattering.  Once in awhile, I just throw a tank top on over my bikini, but that isn't ideal, nor is it all that practical now that I have kiddos who like water and I am going to be spending a lot of time at the pool.

So, I have decided to resume my search for a one-piece.  I may have to look high and low and try on dozens of suits, but I am determined that the next suit I wear out is going to be a one-piece/tankini.  I can't say that I will never wear a bikini again, but I am hoping that this is a step in that direction. 

Two of the websites I have been checking out are Rey Swimwear and Lime Ricki

This one is super cute!
But I wonder if it's comfortable? 
And the likelihood that I will be hitting the pool with styled hair, jewelry,
or makeup is pretty much slim to none...will it still be cute?? :) 
I need to finally put in the effort and at least try wearing a one piece suit.  Wish me luck!
Anyone have a one-piece/tankini that you just love?  Where did you get it?  

Tandem Nursing: Part Three

Finally, Part 3--the part where I actually talk about Tandem Nursing!  This should actually be dated around the beginning of August...I just never got around to publishing it.  Here are Parts One and Two if you missed them.

Since I delivered Gemma at a birthing center, rather than at a hospital, we were able to come home four hours after she was born.  Thus, we were only away from Augustine for six hours total!  Moreover, he went down to bed shortly after we left, so he didn't miss a beat when it came to nursing.  

In the morning, Luke brought Augustine into our room to meet his sweet baby sister.  Gemma and I were lying in bed, and after some family bonding and cuddling, Gemma was ready to eat.  I told Augustine that Gemma was going to have some "meme {milk}," and he said that he wanted some, too.  As Gemma began nursing, I said something along the lines of it being Gemma's turn or that she needed to eat first, and Augustine just burst into tears!  It was too heartbreaking for me to see him cry because I knew he didn't understand and because there were so many changes going on all at once for him.  ...So, we had our first literal tandem nursing session right then and there.  In reality, such simultaneous nursing sessions have been very few and far between.  It's a lot more comfortable for all of us when the babies nurse individually.  Yet, on occasion, they do happen.

Over the course of Gemma's first month of life, I got Augustine down from nursing 2-3 times to just nursing once per day--right before his nap.  Each afternoon, I would lay down on a mattress on his floor with him and nurse him to sleep, as I had been doing for the past four months.  It worked well during that season of life for a couple of reasons: 1)  It gave him a set time to look forward to in terms of nursing.  Whenever he asked to nurse, I told him he couldn't nurse then but that he could nurse before his nap and he understood that and would move on with his day.  Although he did often tell me, as early as 9am, that he was "tired" because he knew if he went to sleep he would get to nurse!  2)  It pretty much guaranteed he would take a good nap.  There are very few days in Augustine's life when he hasn't napped so him giving up his nap wasn't really a concern, but I did like knowing that he would peacefully go to sleep each day while nursing.  3)  Nursing Augustine only once a day was manageable.  I felt like I was nursing around the clock the first week--it's easy to forget how often newborns eat!
Silly babies.
But, unfortunately, as Gemma got more and more fussy, I couldn't even put her down long enough to nurse Augustine to sleep, and there was no way I was sabotaging his nap!  So, I began letting him nurse at other times instead of at nap time.  Very thankfully, the transition went great, and he continued to take long naps without nursing to sleep.  I still limited his nursing to once or twice a day though because I was on such a restricted diet for Gemma that, despite eating all day long, I was having a really hard time keeping weight on.  I wanted to make sure Gemma got what she needed first, and I didn't want to burn up all my calories/energy on nursing. 

Once I added gluten back into my diet at the end of May, however, it was much easier to get calories, and I was more lax about when Augustine nursed {due to a dairy/soy protein intolerance and other possible allergies, I cut several foods out of my diet to accommodate Gemma and continue nursing her}.  In an effort to appease him without a drawn out nursing session every time he asked {and to make sure he wasn't drinking all of Gemma's milk}, I would often tell him he could just have a "taste."  It was pretty funny to see him approach me standing up, literally just take a little taste, and then go back to playing.  He caught onto me quickly though and started saying, "sit" before his taste so that I would sit down and hold him and he could nurse for a longer time.  I obliged, as my milk supply was never threatened, and I had put on a few pounds.

Before I knew it, Augustine was nursing more than he had nursed since before I got pregnant--often 3+ times a day!  He nursed when he was bored, when he was sad, when he got hurt, when he wanted to cuddle, when we were at Mass, etc.   I told Luke to just call me "Bessie" because I felt like a Mama Cow between nursing Augustine and Gemma.

As you can see, there has been a lot of ebbing and flowing with our tandem nursing situation.  Gemma nurses as she wants, but with Augustine we do what works for awhile and then adapt as our circumstances change.

My babies cuddling with their Daddy.
At present, we are back to Augustine nursing two times a day...and asking to nurse 47,423 times a day.  It is quite exasperating at times.  I get exhausted just hearing him ask to nurse  It's not always an issue--if we are out and about and keeping busy, he does just fine, but stick us inside all afternoon on a rainy day, and he will ask for "meme" until he is blue in the face.  It is never easy to turn down your wee one when he wants to nurse--in fact, it kills me.  And sometimes I do cry about it.  A primary reason I decided to let Augustine self-wean is for the emotional aspect of nursing, and it can feel counter-productive when I have to tell him no, sometimes sternly.  Once in awhile, I just throw in the towel and decide to nurse him whenever he asks for it...but then he usually ends up nursing several times before noon, and I remember why it's probably not practical to nurse him and Gemma full time {or is it??}.  Gemma nurses like your typical exclusively breastfed baby.  She nurses every 1 1/2-3 1/2 hours during the day, nurses to sleep for most of her naps and at night, and usually gets up twice at night to eat.  On so many levels, I know we have taken the best path for our family by choosing to tandem nurse, but that doesn't mean I don't struggle with it, too. 

For over 2 1/2 years, nursing had been a very special part of my relationship with Augustine--and all we have ever known--but it is really hard at times.  In my experience, the journey of tandem nursing is much tougher emotionally than it is physically.  And for me that emotional struggle is in my nursing relationship with Augustine, not Gemma.  Maybe it is practical to nurse both of them on demand.  I guess that's what I want deep down.  I am just scared Augustine will become even more dependent on it {is that even a bad thing??}, and I am scared I won't produce enough milk for both of them.  Sometimes there is just no easy answer, and this is one of those issues for me.  I just want to do what is best for my babies.  I know weaning Augustine is not the answer, but I don't know whether restricting him or not would be better.  I welcome advice/suggestions from anyone who has been through this or who just has an insight.  Just keep in mind that Augustine really, really loves to nurse.

Anybody who knows me well knows that nursing Augustine as an infant was pretty much heaven on earth for me.  Since his earliest months he has played with my hair while nursing--he immediately reaches for it, and to this day if it is in a bun or a braid, I let it down so he can hold it and run his fingers though it.  The commentary that now accompanies his nursing sessions is quite comical.  He will tell me, "Meme all gone," "Gemmy drank all the meme," "Other side," and, my favorite, "Come bbaacckk meme!"  I love how cuddly he is and how content he is snuggled in my arms.  So, as trivial a problem as it may seem to others, maintaining a positive nursing situation for Augustine is a priority for me.  I don't think Gemma is phased by the fact that Augustine nurses because she has never known anything different, she is only 7 months old, I nurse her on demand, and I always attend to her needs first.

*I quickly want to mention that although I have chosen to breastfeed and follow child-led weaning, I do not judge those who do not take my path.  It would be foolish of me to ever assume I knew more about a someone's situation than I do, and I know there are a lot of variables that influence such decisions.  I feel beyond blessed that I have been able to nurse both my babies, and it is not something that I take for granted.  I speak passionately about breastfeeding in my blog because it is something that I am passionate about, that I love, and that I hold dear to my heart, but I would never want to make another Mama feel inferior or inadequate if she was not able to breastfeed.  I genuinely believe that we Mothers do what we think is best for our children and that you never know fully what another Mom has been through or what factors have influenced the decisions she makes.*   

Monday, October 1, 2012

Life in Colorado

It's hard to believe, but we arrived in Colorado one month ago!  In some ways it feels like we have been here forever because things feel so natural and normal, but in other ways, it feels like just yesterday we were packing up the moving truck and preparing to drive across the county. 
Taking a wagon ride to our neighborhood park.
I am sure part of the reason time is flying is because of all the chaos that comes along with moving--unpacking, getting settled, long "to-do" lists, etc.--but time is also passing quickly because we are having so much fun!  Living near family has been every bit as wonderful as I imagined, and more!  My family has been so welcoming, hospitable, and accommodating as we get settled--we have, without a doubt, eaten more dinners at one of my sister's or Dad's house this past month than at home. 
My niece and I are the Scottish Festival, where she twirled her baton.
Augustine and his cousin, Tavian, fight like brothers, but they are quick to forgive and ask to see each other everyday.  Our kiddos have six (soon to be seven) cousins right here in town and another three just a couple hours away, so they have a lot of playmates.  I am one happy girl to be living SO close to my sisters.  We are literally less than three miles from both Sarah and Caitlin, and it is awesome!  Especially with Luke's mornings away from the house with soccer practice, it's nice to be able to meet up with my sisters at a moment's notice.
Me and my sisters Sarah's baby shower--can't wait to have another baby girl in the family soon!!
We are getting settled nicely.  Neither Luke or myself can stand to have unpacked boxes sitting around, so we had everything unpacked and put away within a couple days.  Our goal is to have our garage clutter free--aside from things that truly belong in the garage--so that we can both park our cars in there, especially in the winter.  We have a big, unfinished basement, so we just chose a small area down there to store things like Christmas decorations, baby clothes, and special memories (and like a gazillion photo albums!).  After living for a couple of weeks with empty living and dining rooms, we purchased couches and a formal dining room table last week, and our house is truly starting to look, and feel, like our home.  Pretty much all we have left to do on our "urgent list" is purchase a couple more window treatments and hang a few more pictures.  I am also working on the kids' playroom, but I am not in a rush to finish that. 
Having fun, and eating ridiculously good food, at Chris and Sarah's annual Egg Fest (i.e. grill cookoff).
Luke has really been flexing his handy man skills this past month.  They are coming out of the wood works, I tell you--I had no idea he could be so handy, putting in shelves, building a stand for our tv, painting the pantry door, assembling furniture, taking care of the yard.  He also has an opinion on all things decorating, which I find cute and attractive, if not annoying when we are arguing over what our accent color in the kitchen should be.  (We are going with red, by the way.  It was Luke's idea, and it looks great, if I do say so myself :)).  
As wonderful as life is here, it has been a lot of changes for all of us.  The transition has been the easiest on me--after all, I did spend the majority of my first 24 years here, and I am familiar with the city and my family (quirks and all).  It was hard to leave Richmond so suddenly and not to be able to say goodbye to some of my close friends in person, but I am thankful that I can stay in touch with them through Facebook...and I welcome anyone to come visit! :) 
Gemma and her BFF cousins. :)
Overall, the kids are doing great, but we have run into a few issues.  Gemma has been sleeping (and I use that word loosely) poorly since the move.  With teething and diet changes on my part and separation anxiety and moving across the county, there are a number of things that could be contributing to her sleeping woes.  Perhaps most significantly, we transitioned her out of her rock n' play and into her crib when we moved, and we think she really dislikes sleeping in her crib.  The past couple nights we have brought her in bed with us after she wakes up for the first time.  She is sleeping much better that way, so we are going to keep that up for a week or two and then try the crib again.  Since the move my sweet baby girl has started crawling and pulling herself up--it is all happening too fast--yet she still violently rejects food, other than good old breastmilk. 
Gemma being her sassy self.  Oh, she is sososo cute!
Augustine is doing really, really well given all the changes.  He is struggling with separation anxiety, but I think that is totally normal considering that he is surrounded by new faces all around.  It can, however, be quite disconcerting to onlookers when he suddenly starts screaming bloody murder when I disappear out of his view.  He is as cute and cuddly as ever and makes Luke and I laugh everyday.  He is talking non-stop, singing his ABC's, counting, and spending a lot of time running and jumping with Tavian. 
Augustine and his super tall tower he built.
Luke is enjoying Colorado life--"just living the dream," as he says--but the move has been difficult for him emotionally.  He has a lot on his plate with helping to manage the business in Richmond, trying to grow Mighty Kicks, and practicing with the Rapids (which entails two hours of driving each day).  And then, of course, it takes some getting used to being with my family all the time after spending all six years of our relationship thus far not living near any family.  It was a huge relief for me when Luke announced that he loved our house, as he didn't get to see it before we bought it and he was just going off of the pictures online and my recommendation.  We eat dinner outside on our back patio as often as possible to take advantage of the great weather and the glorious yard that pretty much sold the house for him.  I couldn't ask for a better or more patient husband.  Seriously, he puts up with me without complaint, and I give him plenty to complain about. :)
Love these girls!!
God has blessed us so much with this move and with our home and with everything going so smoothly.  For weeks I felt like Luke and I were either just playing house or that we were on vacation because I don't feel grown up enough to have a big house with a big backyard.  Yet, here we are, and we couldn't be happier. 
Sorry this update is lengthy, but I have been totally mia on the interweb for the past month and needed to catch you all up on our lives! 
Happy October!!  Yeah for fall! :)

Sunday, August 26, 2012

T-4 Days

It has been a wild 24 hours for the Vercollone family!! 
What was supposed to be a very memorable last home game of the season for Luke, highlighted by the kids and I staying to watch the whole game {we usually leave at half time} and even going out with the team afterward, was cut short when Augustine caught a bleacher with his head 20 minutes into the game and ended up in the ER getting staples in his head.  He did spectacular at the hospital, not crying even once as they washed his laceration and put in the staples.  If anything, he was high on life, due to one of my girlfriends handing him a bag of Skittles as I buckled him in his carseat to head to the hospital {she knows the way to his heart!}.  He talked the whole way to the ER and even sang his ABC's as we waited for the doctor, qualming all my fears of sustained brain damage due to the fall. :) 
Waiting for a room at the ER, wearing his "hat."
Meanwhile, back at the pitch, Luke's team lost 3-2 in the last minute of stoppage time.  It was a huge disappointment for us because, since they lost, that was Luke's last game of the season--and possibly his last pro game ever.  I wanted to make it special for him, and I knew it would mean the world to him to have all three of us there for the whole game and for the kids to be able to go out on the field with him afterward.  Of course, when I planned this in my head, they would be greeting him on the field to celebrate a victory...not a dramatic, season ending loss.  And, of course, we weren't there at all, so that plan was entirely unsuccessful.  We will have to see what God has planned regarding Luke's soccer playing career--hopefully he will get some training in with the Colorado Rapids when we move.
One of the only pictures I got at the game.  Just before Luke took the field, Augustine ran in for a good luck hug!
By the time we were finished at the ER, Luke was on his way home from the game.  After our first order of business--Luke getting some special time with our wounded solider and tucking the kiddos into bed--we walked downstairs, and the first words out of Luke's mouth were,
"So, do you want to leave Thursday?" 
Leave, as in move across the country.
Thursday, as in four days from today.  
I said, "Ok." 
We spent the next half hour returning phone calls to our respective family members, reassuring them that Aguustine was doing just fine and hesitantly sharing the news about our earlier-than-planned departure from Virginia.  
I knew our last days in our first home would be tough ones emotionally, and I didn't expect them to be here this soon.  On the bright side, I won't have too much time to dwell on the sad stuff because I have a house to finish packing and cleaning--in FOUR days!! 
Sitting in Mass this morning, it crossed my mind that next Sunday we will be attending church with two of my sisters and their families and my Dad.  It seems surreal that our life will change so much in this next week.
I am excited and scared {for the drive} and sad...but mostly excited.
Fyi, if you ever have to move from the home you brought your babies home to, do not pack up your first born's bedroom while listening to counrty music--unless you like to cry like a baby.    

Tuesday, August 21, 2012

Just Need to Write

Today I feel like I need to spend some time putting the mess going on in my head into words.  Too often my unspoken thoughts, left to their own devices, are warped into a destructive way of thinking.  Stuck inside my head without anyone to challenge them, they convince me that I am a horrible mom and wife, and even more pathetically, that the crosses in my life warrant a pity party.  There is some truth to the former--I fall short as a wife and mom, a lot.  But there are also times that I feel I am living out my vocation well, which helps give me some perspective when it feels like I am doing nothing right.  How I can feel so sorry for myself at times, however, is less understandable.  And it is embarrassing.  When the biggest upset in my day is my two year old disobeying or taking his sister's toys, I do not have big problems.  All it takes is a minute of looking outside myself to see how blessed I am--challenges and all. 

Why, oh why am I so dang selfish? 

I try to begin each day by offering it to the Lord--I offer Him my thoughts, words, and actions, my joys and my sorrows, trials and tribulations, successes and failures.  And my prayers.  But often times I want to kick myself half way through the day when I realize that I have not, in fact, truly offered those things to the Lord. 

Because if I had, then I wouldn't feel so alone in my trials and tribulations.  I would know that my God was right there with me helping me in the very moments that I need Him most and offering me all the grace I need for each and every moment of my day. 
That moment between an offending action and my reacting to it is a challenge for me many, many times throughout the day.  For some people {like my husband}, that moment passes easily and right action is made consistently without any conscious thought.  At different points in my life, I have been closer to achieving that ideal, but now is not one of them.  I am not proud about it, but I am not in the habit of reacting well when things don't go my way.  When I am tired or hungry or proud or just plain irritable, I let that moment ride the wave of my spontaneous emotion without taking the extra second or two to reign in my impulses and think about the best way to act before reacting. 

Sometimes I feel like the harder I try to work on this, the harder I fall.  I really think the Devil has it out for us moms {and wives} sometimes.  He has a million opportunities a day to try to distract us from our mission to nurture and protect our children and their sweet souls.  Maybe it's just this time of the year, but a lot of my Mom friends seem to be struggling right now.  Struggling with feelings of inadequacy and defeat and being exhausted by the antics of their oh-so-cute, yet oh-so-stubborn children.  Struggling with the feeling that everything I do--every word I utter, every embrace I offer, every smile I extend, every tickle I give...every temper I lose, every tv show I allow, every tear I {and my child} shed is going to effect my child. 
In a profound way. 
I have a feeling we are harder on ourselves than our children are, but feeling responsible for the eternal livelihood of our children is a heavy weight to bear. 

Yet, when I take that minute to think clearly, I realize that as prevalent as those feelings are, the simple answer is always turning toward the Lord.  {It's simple but not easy, and I am much better about talking about doing it than actually doing it}.

Tonight {really tomorrow morning by the time he gets home from the airport}, my husband is returning from a week long trip out of the country.  The only communication we have had is via Skype with a less than perfect connection.  Calls are dropped, faces are fuzzy, voices are muffled.  Let's face it, I am tired.  I am very tired.  I love my kids with all my heart, but I can tell by the way that I am reacting to things--little things--that it is beyond time for my sweet husband to return.  Thank God it's the last day of his trip because I am a weepy mess.  I am yelling one minute, cuddling the next.  Augustine is probably very confused, especially since I cry when I am happy and sad.  Poor kid.  Thank you, friends, for listening to this cathartic, if not incoherant, rambling.         

Friday, July 27, 2012

Tandem Nursing: Part Two

If you missed part one, you can read it here.
As soon as I found out I was pregnant, I dialed up a well respected midwife in town and spent a good while speaking with her.  I had a few general pregnancy questions, but, mostly, I was interested in her opinion on my nursing situation.  Especially since I am a small person with not much weight to lose, I didn't know if it would be healthy {for any/all three of us} to continue nursing one baby while simultaneously growing another.  I had also heard that nursing while you were pregnant was dangerous because it stimulated uterine contractions and could cause pre-term labor.  I knew my mom had nursed my sister throughout her pregnancy with me, but without her around to talk to, I needed some serious affirmation before I would feel comfortable doing it myself!  
My sweet Augustine just a few weeks before Gemma's arrival.
Much to my delight, the midwife very convincingly reassured me that continuing to nurse was not bad for me, was not bad for Augustine, and--easing my greatest concern--was not bad for my unborn baby.  She explained that the baby would get everything he/she needed first and that Augustine was no longer relying on breast milk for his primary nutrition, as he was getting plenty of nutrition from his food.   
So I did what I had been doing for the past 16 months--cuddled up with, and nursed, Augustine.  
I didn't have an agenda.  And I didn't know what to expect.  When people asked how long I was going to nurse Augustine, my answers were not concrete or consistent because my mind kept changing.  I went back and forth between wanted to let Augustine wean himself and thinking I needed to force him to wean; some days I felt prepared to nurse two babies at once if needed and other days the thought totally overwhelmed me.     
Months passed, and my due date was quickly approaching.  Despite a huge drop in my milk supply at the end of my first trimester {totally normal--the midwife had forewarned me about it}, Augustine was still nursing a couple times a day...and loving it.  It was becoming clear that Augustine was not going to self-wean before Gemma arrived.

It was also becoming clear that I was not going to force him to wean.  It would just break my heart. 
I missed the simplicity of nursing from the early months of Augustine's life--those months when I nursed on demand wherever and whenever he showed the smallest yearning for food or warmth or comfort or sleep.  Now, with the pregnancy, there were so many other variables to consider.  As my due date approached, I no longer offered milk to Augustine or nursed him at regularly times throughout the day {except before his nap}--I only nursed him when he initiated it.  Some days he would only nurse once, which was a victory in my husband's eyes but more of a mourning in mine.  Luke and I talked about this issue a lot, and though he would have been in favor of weaning Augustine if I wanted to, he was supportive of Augustine's needs and my convictions as a Mama.  And even though nursing wasn't very well serving Augustine's physical needs {i.e. nutrition} at this point, neither Luke or I could deny its significance on his emotional needs.  Nursing was a source of security and comfort; it was a way to take a breather and calm down if he was upset or hurt; it was a surefire way to get him to take a nap; it was a great way to rest but not sleep in the middle of a busy morning.  Children can find these comforts in many things--a blankie, binky, bottle, cup, cuddles, etc, but for Augustine it was nursing. 
I will also mention that throughout the pregnancy, Luke and I got questions and comments from our family and friends.  A few of them expressed concern over my weight or health but many of them were just curious.  To this day, I know there are people {probably lots} who think I should have weaned Augustine a long time ago and don't get why I am still nursing him.  I can understand where they are coming from, given our cultural norms, but their opinions don't influence me too much.  Though it can be intimidating to stand out of the crowd, if there is one thing being a parent has taught me it's that there are many different ways to be a good mom.
Can't wait to meet you in a few weeks, baby sister.
Aside from my fear that Augustine may start to wake up in the middle of the night again once my milk came in after the baby was born, I was at peace with my decision to tandem nurse.  It still felt so natural for me to nurse him.
Clearly, Augustine wasn't the only one not ready to give it up. :)
We will continue with Gemma's arrival in Part Three!


Wednesday, July 18, 2012

Tandem Nursing: Part One

For those of you who don't know, I have a six month-old baby girl {Gemma} and a two and a half year-old little boy {Augustine}, both of whom I have nursed since the day they were born.  Tandem nursing is not always easy, from a physical or emotional standpoint, but I can't imagine it any other way.  In sharing my experience I hope to encourage others who choose to take this path, to enlighten those who don't know much about the issue, and to write it all down as a special memory for me to look back on years from now.  :) 

When I started this journey of motherhood, back when my little man was just a pea sized baby in my belly, tandem nursing was not even on my radar.  I knew my Mom had done it with my older sister and me...but that is because we were born less than a year apart {yes, I am an Irish Twin!}.  Somewhere, probably in a box in my Dad's basement, there is an old picture floating around of my Mom nursing both of us at the same time--my sister on one boob and me, laying on top of her, on the other!  I remember looking at that picture as a young girl and thinking it was such a phenomenon--I never imagined that one day I would find myself in my Mom's position! 
Passed out after a little snack.
 Initially, like most breastfeeding mamas, my goal was to breastfeed Augustine until his first birthday.  Everything past that just seemed like icing on the cake--I just didn't know that icing would still be going strong another year and a half later... 

But as the year mark came and went, my expectations shifted.  From the first moments of Augustine's life, breastfeeding was one of my favorite parts about being a mama--I loved nursing Augustine to sleep, I loved being able to calm and comfort him, I loved how convenient it was, I cherished all the special time we spent together nursing, and I knew it was very healthy for him.  Likewise, from day one he loved to nurse--so much so that he continued to get up to eat in the middle of the night until he was 18 months old.  Though we had met our goal of one year, neither of us seemed ready to give it up yet, and I was feeling increasingly called to let Augustine self-wean.  I am such a hippy.   

At the same time, my husband's expectations were not changing--he still expected Augustine to stop nursing at 12 months, enabling my body to resume normal cycles and giving us the hope of getting pregnant again.  Augustine's frequent nursing was delaying the return of my cycle. 

Like Luke, I was hopeful of adding another baby to our family, but I wasn't in a huge rush.  God so incredibly designed the female body to work the way it does, and I knew that there was a reason my body wasn't ready to conceive again...maybe something to do with Augustine still getting up at night.  I was also trying to live fully in the present moment and appreciate that unique time with just Augustine.  Luke didn't intend to be insensitive, I just don't think even daddies can fully grasp the intensity of the relationship between a mama and her baby.  Though I felt pressure to wean Augustine and "get the show on the road," I knew I would regret it if I weaned Augustine just so we could get pregnant again.        

Nursing outside on a bench in Estes Park. 
We have mastered the art of being discrete.
So, we came to a compromise: Augustine would still nurse but just not as often.  He was eating three full meals, as well as snacks at this point, so nursing was more about the emotional connection and comfort than calories.

Within a couple of months I got my first postpartum period.  The return of my cycle may or may not have been influenced by Augustine's nursing frequency.  My period returned at the typical time for women who exclusively nurse, so chances are it would have returned around that time anyway. 

The next month, we conceived our sweet baby girl!! :)

I was relieved to be pregnant without having rushed Augustine to wean, and I let him go back to nursing more or less whenever he wanted. 

But I knew in the next several months I would have to make some decisions...   
how long would I continue to nurse Augustine?
how would the weaning process work?
would I nurse throughout my pregnancy?
and...would I tandem nurse??

Part II coming up... 

Thursday, June 28, 2012

20 Questions {about our move}

Since making an announcement about our cross-country move, I have been getting questions left and right!  Rather than answer everyone individually, I thought I would just pose the most common inquiries, and their respective answers, here.  If you don't care how, why, when, or where we are moving, this post probably isn't for you :)  

Q)  When are you moving?
A)  We are moving in in less than three months.  Equally exciting and nauseating--given that I have no idea where to start with packing.

Q)  Where are you moving?
A)  Without getting too specific, we are moving to Colorado.  We will be settling down in the area I grew up in, within a couple minutes of two of my sisters and my Dad!

Q)  Have you bought a house there?
A)  We are under contract for a house and are scheduled to close at the end of July.  Prayers that it all works out according to God's Will for us would be greatly appreciated.

Q)  What are you doing with your house in Virginia?
A)  We will be renting out our house in VA.  Over the next couple weeks we will be showing the house to interested parties and hope to have immediate renters when we move {prayers again, please :)}.

Q)  Is Luke going to play soccer in Colorado?
A)  It would be great if Luke could  play soccer in CO.  He plans on training with the MLS team there this fall.  Depending on their current roster and what they are looking for, Luke may be the perfect addition. :)

Q)  What if Luke doesn't get to play with the team in CO?
A)  If Luke doesn't get picked up in CO, we may return to VA for the spring/summer 2013.  But, there is always the possibility that this will be Luke's last year of playing professional soccer.

Q)  What will Luke do for work in CO?
A)  Luke started a business in VA {Little Kicks}, which he then franchised {under the name Mighty Kicks}.  We have hired a manager to run the business in VA after we move, but Luke will still be involved in that business.  Additionally, Luke will be selling and managing Mighty Kicks franchises and working in a partnership to start Mighty Kicks in our new area. 

Q)  Why are you moving to CO?
A)  We are moving to CO because it has always been our long-term goal to raise our kiddos near their cousins and to live near family.  In VA, we are hundreds of miles away from our families.  We are really looking forward to living near some of our best friends {my sisters/brothers-in-laws}.

Q)  Can I come to visit?
A)  Yes, please!  Our home has plenty of room for guests, and we would love to have friends from across the country come to visit.   

Q)  How are you moving all your stuff across the country?
A)  We don't know.  Since we aren't super attached to any of our current furniture, there's a good chance we will sell at least some--if not most--of it here in VA.  Even still we will need some sort of mobile storage/moving device.  We have considered PODS; Luke hauling a small unit behind his car; and Luke hauling his car behind a moving truck.  Suggestions, advice, tips, please!  {My vote is for a POD}.
And then I guess there's always this option...just kidding. 

Q)  Will you be coming back to VA to visit?
A)  I am sure Luke will be back at least once a year for business and to check in with our renters.  Honestly, I don't know when/if the kiddos and I will come back to visit.

Q)  Are you big skiiers?  {Most people seem to think "Coloradoan" is synonymous with "skiier"}
A)  We are skiiers/snow boarders but not big ones.  Call me crazy, but I was born and raised in CO and didn't go skiing for the first time until I was 16!  {Probably because it is so darn expensive}.  We will be happy if we make it up for one weekend of skiing this year

There you have it, all the details about our move, and in just twelve questions!


Wednesday, June 27, 2012

Our New House!

Here it is, a picture of our new house!! 
It is not technically ours for another month, assuming all goes well with the inspection and closing {...and that it doesn't burn down with the rest of my beautiful state}.  But we are excited to be under contract and to have one big item checked off this summer's "to-do list."

I will save pictures of the inside for a future blog post when I can show "before" and "after" transformations, but here are a few of the backyard:
Love that open space!  And a shed.

Augustine gave it his stamp of approval!  He caught a glipse of this play structure as we began our tour of the house
 and spent the rest of our time there playing out back while I checked out the rest of the house.

A big, flat backyard was seriously at the top of my husband's wist list for our new house,
and this yard does not disappoint!

I am hoping I can covet just a small area of this glorious lawn for a garden--we'll see :).  I really love that Luke and Augustine {and before we know it, Gemma, too} will have plenty of room to run around in, chasing soccer balls and playing catch.  I told Luke my only concern is that the yard may be too big and that I wouldn't always be able to see Augustine from the back porch--he, of course, laughed. 

We are also beyond excited that in the next couple weeks a neighborhood park is being completed just down the street.  In addition to playgrounds, a basketball court, etc, it also has a soccer field.  Luke is in heaven! :)

Please pray for God's Will as we complete this home-buying process and also for the
end to the massive fires burning in Colorado. 

Saturday, June 23, 2012

It's Great Having a Sister to Play Dolls with...

but it's so much better in real life!
Tavian, Felicity, Gemma, Augustine
So cute and so fun.

Tuesday, May 22, 2012

Always Helping

As I was scrolling through the pictures and videos saved on my computer this evening, I realized that quite a few of them are of Augustine "helping" around the house.  He loves to help and is always offering his assistance, regardless of what I am doing - cooking, cleaning, putting lids on containers {?}, brushing my teeth, adding soap to the laundry machine and dish washer, even, ahem, going to the bathroom! {don't worry, I didn't include pictures of all of these...}.

Here are such a few images of Augustine helping... 

1) make Daddy lunch
I asked him to put the bread on the grill...and he took a bite first. 
Ditto on the cheese.
Sorry, Luke!

2) vacuum
This is an especially aggressive clip {lol}...
this is not how he typically vacuums, seriously. 
His favorite is vacuuming with our real vacuum.

3) make pancakes
Augustine's breakfast of choice most mornings.

4) protect his sister
In this case, her ears...from my noisy hair dryer.
What a sweet brother :)

Love that little guy!

Sunday, May 6, 2012

Augustine hearts Jesus

Just two cute stories about Augustine and Jesus...


Though it has never been our practice to say prayers before his nap, the past two days {while his Daddy has been out of town} Augustine has said, "Pray Daddy" as I am tucking him in.  It's so sweet--and then we, of course, pray for Daddy.  We are going to make praying before nap a regular thing, thanks to my Little Man.


Luke does a lot of weekend traveling this time of year, and Saturdays without him seem so long because we aren't busy with our normally scheduled activities that we have during the week.  So yesterday, around 3:30 pm, we just needed to get out of the house.  We jumped into the car {with no where in mind to go} and wound up at church.  After playing at the park there for a bit, I noticed cars arriving for Saturday evening Mass, so we decided to go see Jesus.  Before Mass started, we entered the chapel where the Tabernacle is located, and Augustine walked right up to it and gave "Jesus' house" several kisses.  And when it was time for Communion, Augustine kept pointing to his mouth and saying, "Jesus."  He broke down into a fit when we returned to the pew because I told him it would be a few more years before he could receive the Eucharist {in toddler talk, it was more like, "You can't eat Jesus yet because you are too little"}.  It would have been more cute if the scenario didn't involve him throwing a tantrum while I was at Mass by myself with two little ones, but it was endearing, nonetheless.


I love watching Augustine develop a relationship with our Lord.  It is elementary, I know, but it is also very innocent and pure, and I love that.  He is at an age where I really feel convicted when I make a poor choice in my words or actions because I know he is watching me and learning from me...not to mention, imitating me!  It is definitely motivation to work on my attitude and to think before I speak or act.  Oh me! 

At the farm last week!
I just keep praying he turns out like his Daddy...       

Monday, April 30, 2012

Finding the Extraordinary in the Ordinary

“The ordinary acts we practice every day at home
are of more importance to the soul
than their simplicity might suggest.” 
- St. Thomas More {emphasis added by moi}

Especially coming off of a long weekend with Luke out of town, I needed to hear these words from St. Thomas More.  {Proof that God speaks through random friends' Facebook statuses :)} 
There were more than a few occasions during the weekend that I lost sight of the supernatural aspect of my Vocation as a wife and mother.  
I lost sight of the big picture.
My vocation is not just about giving baths, making dinners, rocking babies to sleep, sweeping floors, and cleaning up toys--it's about the love {or lack thereof} with which I do those things day in and day out. 
It's  about remembering to offer up the sufferings and hard moments of my day for the sanctification of my children's souls--and my soul. 
It's about remembering that the sacrifices I make for my family can either be made with love or with frustration and resentment.
It's about remembering {in the heat of a very difficult moment} that my child is a Beloved Son of God and, for that reason alone, he never deserves to be yelled at.

As St Thomas More so beautifully suggests, ordinary acts are really not so ordinary at all. 
All day long, with every decision that I make, I am given the opportunity to grow in holiness and in my relationship with the Lord. 
Every decision is a decision whether or not to love.
{I wish I chose to right path more often}.
It is a constant struggle.

I stumble when I see things through the eyes of the world, rather than through the eyes of God.
The world judges by success. 
The world makes me want to be perfect in the eyes of the world.
Yet, in reality, it matters not what the world thinks
God judges by love and demands only faithfulness.
And if I lose sight of that, I lose sight of what is really important
...regardless of how well behaved my children are, how clean my house is
{or how handsome my husband is :)}.

Today is a new day.
Love will be my motivation for everything.
In the words of St. Augustine, 
"Love, and do what you will."
And where was Luke this past weekend, you ask??  Orlando, Florida.  Although the purpose of the trip was to play a soccer game Saturday night, he and his team spent all day Sunday soaking up the sun and the fun at Disney World...while I prayed my way through day three of single parenthood.  Boy, are we happy to have him back at home! 

Sunday, April 29, 2012

Peace in the Present

So I actually wrote this post on January 4th, 2012 ,but I never got around to publishing it.  But in the months it has been sitting in my draft box, it's message has continuously been relevant in my life, so I figured now is a good time to share it. :) 

I realized about seven years ago that you only get the present once--and then it's gone.
Seven years ago, I was a recent college graduate and had just committed to spending two years working for a non-profit {FOCUS} doing campus ministry.  As much as I wanted to serve God in this way, I was terrified of being asked to serve at a college away from my family in Colorado. 
The day I found out I had to move to New Mexico, I cried. 
And cried. 
And cried. 
I tried to put my heart into that year of missionary work, but in the back of my mind, all I could think about was moving back to Colorado.  Instead of fully living in, and embracing, my present state in life, all I could think about was the future.  It felt like my life was just on hold that year, and when I got back to Colorado I could begin living my life again.  Of course, I had some great experiences, learned a lot, and grew in my relationship with the Lord, but I always had my focus on the future.  

God answered my prayers, and the next year I got placed at a university in Colorado--but not without teaching me a lesson in the process.  That year in New Mexico, God taught me the value of living in the present, embracing the state of life He has placed me in at every moment, and finding true peace and joy there. 
God taught me that the present is precious--that each moment only lasts a moment--and that living for the future means missing out on great {and even not-so-great, yet precious, nonetheless} moments in the present.  I have FAR from perfected that ideal, but I try.

Do you know what I did after that year of campus ministry in Colorado?  I {voluntarily} moved all the way across the country to Charleston, South Carolina!  Something I never would have done a year earlier was suddenly the easiest (and one of the best) decisions I have ever made.  I was free to make that decision because I knew if God was truly calling me to that life, he would provide the grace I needed to survive--and not just survive, but to thrive.  That decision may have involved a certain boy who is now my husband ;) 

I stopped dwelling on what I might miss out on in Colorado and started focusing on what I didn't want to miss out on in Charleston. Though it had always been my "plan" to live in Colorado, that wasn't my reality, and I was finished letting that rob me of my peace.

Don't get me wrong, it is still a hope of mine to move back to Colorado one day (soon, perhaps!).  But I can honestly say that--almost six years later--I haven't obsessed about moving back or missed out on the joy of the present in anticipation of the uncertain future.  Virginia really feels like home--we have invested our lives here, made great friends here, and created many, many memories here that will last a lifetime.

I am glad God taught me this lesson, though I have still had to remind myself many times to stop fast-forwarding my life in my head! when Luke and I were engaged and I was SO excited to be Mrs. Vercollone! But, we tried our best to embrace the unique and fleeting life circumstances that being engaged present, and it turned out to be a very memorable and special time in our lives. 

So as the birth of my baby approaches, I do not wish these final days away.  Instead, I cherish my last days with just Augustine and Luke--as I cherished my last days with just Luke prior to the birth of Augustine.  I know our lives will be enriched by the addition of another little one, but I also know that I don't need to be in a hurry to get there.  That day will come fast enough on its own.

And I will rejoice on that day...

**As many of you know, "that" day--the birth of our daughter--came a few weeks sooner than expected!  And then, following Gemma's birth, she had some severe tummy issues that made her extremely fussy.  I was constantly reminding myself that, even when it was very difficult, this season of her life would pass ever so quickly and I didn't want to miss a second of it.  It was tempting to wish her out of infancy and into a calmer, more coherent stage in life, but I resisted and here, just a few months later, she has improved so much!  I guess I am constantly learning {and relearning!} that God's plans are always better than my own.  

And now with our move to Colorado "confirmed," this notion of living in the present is knocking me over the head on a daily basis!  I have to stop my imagination from running wild with scenes of Augustine and his cousins playing all day long while my sisters and I sip coffee and chat and remember to live each day in the present with peace and contentedness
...though a little joyful anticipation is never a bad thing either. :)