Sunday, September 14, 2014

Cloth diapering a newborn {logistics}


Baby #4 is now 2 and a half months old. We've been cloth diapering him since he was 1 or 2 weeks old and it has been going great! I posted when we had been cloth diapering him for 2 weeks and we've made a few changes to our regime. We are still using covers and prefolds, but we had to change our overnight solution and adjust our prefold fold. We also dealt with our first "diaper rash."

Overnights
 
The biggest change has been dealing with overnights. Baby #4 has been an excellent sleeper. I feed him around 9-10 pm and he routinely sleeps until 3-4 am. He has even done a few all nighters, eating at 9-10 pm and going all the way to 5:30-6:30 am. This has been great for me, but not the best for just a cover and prefold! We switched him to a Thirsties Fitted Diaper Size 1 and our same Thirsties Size 1 covers. Again, this worked well for a couple nights until every single morning he was leaking out of the same spot on the front of his diaper, no matter how carefully we adjusted the cover over the fitted diaper. I talked to the gal at our local baby store and she recommended that we switch to a larger size cover, like the one size Flip cover. The Flip cover is larger than our Thirsties Size 1. It has snaps on the front to adjust the size, just like all our other snap covers, and so it easily fit him. It did the trick! Now we have no leaking issues at night.
 
This is what a Thristies Fitted Size 1 diaper looks like. The entire diaper is absorbent, which is ideal for night. You must put a cover over a fitted diaper.

 



We use a Flip cover over our Thristies Fitted diaper. Just like with a prefold and cover, you need to make sure that the entire fitted diaper is covered by the cover or it will leak. We have really liked this solution for night. Baby #4 tends to wet more after his first feed in the morning, not during the night or at his night feed, so I usually change his diaper at the 9-10 pm feeding and after his first morning feed at 5:30-6:30 am, even if I feed him in the night at 3-4 am. When I've changed him at the middle of the night feed, his diaper was dry. In the mornings, I put him in a cover and prefold after his first feed and then change him about an hour later because that is when he wets the most.
 
 


The one size Flip cover is much larger than the Thirsties size 1 cover. We only have one Flip cover right now. The Thirsties size 1 covers have still worked great for us during the day with the prefolds.
 


 
 Daytime {Covers and Prefolds}
 

We haven't had issues with leakage at all during the day... until the poop blowouts. It started becoming a problem around 8 weeks that he would leak slightly in the leg holes after he pooped. So we adjusted the fold of our diaper and it has worked perfectly for us. I know that people use the Snappies for a traditional cloth diaper fold, but I didn't buy the Snappies and so we modified our fold. Now, with this fold he does not leak out of his cover when he poops. However, he does tend to get his cover dirty when he poops, meaning we change the cover. Everything is contained inside the Thirsties diaper cover, we just need to change the cover.
 
With prefolds and covers, you usually just change the prefold when you go to change the diaper. With this fold, we only change the prefold when the diaper is just wet; when he poops, we sometimes have to change the prefold and the cover. This fold has been working for us just great and this hasn't been a problem. We use 2-3 covers during the day and we have no leak issues.
 
We don't do anything crazy or fancy with this fold. All we do is fan the back and bring the prefold to a point in the front, like so.
 
 
We then fold the front over so it is more absorbent where he needs it to be.
 
 
Bring the prefold up.
 
 
We cover the prefold with the Thirsties size 1 cover, which is still working great for us during the day.

 
Now that baby #4 is 2 and a half months old and 12 lbs 14 oz, we like to make sure we snap the wings down on the side of our cover. It helps keep everything in place.
 
 
And then we snap the cover on the front! Finished! :) It really isn't that different than how we started. The fanning in the back has helped with the blowouts though.

 
 
Diaper Rash
 
So baby #4 has not had diaper rash like how you think: open sores, welt looking areas, etc. Because we use organic cotton prefolds, the moisture is not wicked away from his skin. During the day, we change his diaper every 1-3 hours. The night diaper is microfiber and wicks the moisture away (plus he doesn't wet much at night), so we haven't had issues then. It has just been during the day that we've noticed him having some issues. I talked to the gal at our local baby store and she recommended fleece inserts. I wondered how well this would work, but, I'm telling you, it is fleece magic. Whenever we notice his diaper area getting red or rosey, we throw a fleece insert into his diaper to help wick that moisture away from his skin and the next diaper change he is back to normal!
 
This is what the fleece insert looks like. I fold it in half before putting it on him.
 


 
We just lay the fleece insert over his diaper area.
 
 
Diaper as usual.
 
 
Good to go! For good measure, we usually stick a fleece insert in his overnight diaper just to make sure that the moisture is extra wicked away from his skin at night, though the microfiber really pulls it away.
 
 
 
Laundry
 

The first response I hear when people ask me about cloth diapering is: "What about all the laundry?" I said it in my last blog post too, but I haven't had issues with the laundry. Since that post, I have made some adjustments to our laundry routine.
 
I like to do our diaper laundry first thing in the morning. The fitted diapers are usually dry by the time we need to diaper baby #4 for overnights (if they aren't dry by 7 pm, I do toss them in the dryer on low while we bathe his brothers just to be sure they will be completely dry by 9 pm). I was rinsing the diapers with our diaper sprayer before throwing them in the wet pail. Then I had a conversation with the gal at our local baby store. She said breastmilk poop is water soluble, so she does a rinse cycle in her washer before the wash cycle. Now I throw the soiled diaper in our wet pail after changing baby #4. I empty the wet pail in our washer every morning after the morning feed and put the washer on rinse/soak. After the diapers rinse, I wash them on hot with our cloth diaper detergent.
 
I can't seem to find a straight answer on cloth diaper detergents. It seems some people think that having to use a special cloth diaper detergent is baloney. Other people think the regular laundry detergent is best, like original Tide or original Gain. I don't know. I make our laundry detergent, but I have found mixed reviews on using Borax on cloth diapers. I'm nervous about ruining all our cloth diapers, so I haven't braved washing them in it yet. For now, I use Babyganics laundry detergent on our cloth diapers. After washing the diapers, I then hang everything to dry. Since it is usually a smaller load (especially for our house), I'll hang everything-- the wipes, diapers, covers, fitted diaper... hang it all. I put this outside in the sun to dry most days. On rainy days or when we are out of the house, I leave it in the laundry room (don't want my covers and wipes to blow away!). The sun has also been great for sun bleaching out the breastmilk poop stains on the covers, prefolds, and wipes.
 
 
 
Do you have any great cloth diapering tips?
 



Saturday, September 13, 2014

Boosting our immune systems through diet



I may be a mom, but I still like to party. And by party, I mean spending my Friday night Googling natural ways to boost your immune system through your diet.

I've posted before about our son's reactive airways. Because he is so young, his reactive airways are constantly changing. There is the hope that he will grow out of having such a hard time. However, due to family history, his pediatricians proceed as if he has an asthma diagnosis.

Each year, we try to wean him off of his daily regulator, Pulmicort. Last year, he was doing great through the first half of the cold and flu season so we started weaning him off of Pulmicort, from twice a day to once a day. Then--bam!-- he caught a cold and he ended up on Orapred twice in a row. He stayed on Pulmicort until May/June, when we had weaned him down again to one dose before stopping all together. He spent most of June, all of July, and all of August off Pulmicort. Then this past week he caught his first cold of the season and we ended up at the pediatrician where she decided against oral steroids, but put him back on Pulmicort twice a day and he spent 3 days on Albuterol every 3-4 hours. He is doing better, but is still needing Albuterol in the morning.

As an asthmatic myself, I know what my triggers are. For our son O, his main trigger is getting sick. And then once he gets sick, his lungs have a hard time recovering, making him susceptible to other colds and dragging colds on for long periods of time. I also notice, like myself, that he tends to start having more issues during the time when the seasons start changing. I haven't noticed him to have any allergies, though he tends to get rashes and dry skin.

One of the big ways to help manage your asthma is avoid your triggers. When I think about O's major trigger-- getting sick-- I'm not quite sure how to avoid it. He is one 3-year old in a family of six. His dad is in the Navy, meaning the sailors don't get sick days and he is often working with people who are under the weather, putting him in contact with lots of germs. On top of that, our boys are all very active and enjoy playing outside, going to the park, and meeting up with friends. How do I keep a 3-year old from getting sick?

When he was a baby and a beginning walker, it was much easier to control what he came into contact with and where. I loved Touchy Tags and hung them everywhere. I had hand sanitizer sitting all over our house and insisted everyone used it all the time. We washed hands like it was our job. Now that he's older, my husband and I wash our hands all the time and we are always washing our boys' hands and instructing them to go wash their hands, but it is harder, different, then when they were babies. I also cannot hang a Touchy Tag around O's neck and stick him in a bubble, as much as I would like to at times.

This is when I started thinking of other ways to help him out. I've posted several times regarding our family diet as well. I cook most of our foods. We really try to avoid processed foods and artificial ingredients. We make the best choices that we can (and can afford; read "Organics vs family budget"). We follow the 80/20 approach when it comes to eating healthy. So I started Googling: how can I boost his immune system through our diet? I came across several blogs that helped me put together our list on how to do this.

The first blog post that really helped direct my focus was MindBodyGreen's post, "6 Ways to Boost Your Child's Immune System." From there I did a little reading on elderberry and decided against that. While on WebMD, I read about "Immunity Boosting Snacks for Kids." And then somehow I ended up on Dr. Sear's website. I read his articles on "8 Foods that Boost Immunity," "Boost Your Child's Immune System," and "4 Habits that Weaken the Immune System." I also looked up "26 Foods High in Zinc for Overall Good Heath" and "Top 7 Vitamin C containing fruits."

I read a whole bunch of other articles on boosting the immune system through your diet, but those are the articles that I printed off and used to compile my list of foods to boost our children's immune systems.

There are a few obvious things that I have not presented our children-- like oysters, watermelon seeds, and beef liver. However, when looking over the list, the biggest change in our diet is going to be adding a fish dinner once a week (read, "Should your kids eat fish? How they can avoid mercury and still get their omega-3" posted by BabyCenter). Since I do most of our shopping at Costco, I like to stock up in bulk, thus buying fresh fish tends to slip off our menu. I'm also going to focus a lot on serving foods high in Vitamin C for their afternoon snack and really try to make the shift from store-bought wheat sandwich bread to homemade whole-wheat bread. The complete plan is to boost all of our immune systems through our diet, hopefully cut down on the amount of colds O catches this year, helping keep his asthma under control. I'd like to cut back on his Albuterol usage and keep him on his current dose of Pulmicort or lower it.

Here is the list that I've put together:

Boosting our children's immune systems
 
Immunity boosting snacks
1.       Yogurt
2.      Kefir
3.      Walnuts
4.      Fruits and veggies
5.      Lean meats
Zinc
1.       Spinach
2.      Beef
3.      Shrimp
4.      Kidney beans
5.      Flax seeds
6.      Pumpkin seeds
7.      Oysters
8.      Watermelon seeds
9.      Garlic
10.   Lima beans
11.    Peanuts
12.   Egg yolks
13.   Turkey
14.   Salmon
15.   Lobster
16.   Pork
17.   Dark chocolate
18.   Chickpeas
19.   Beef liver
20.  Brown rice
21.   Peas
22.  Sesame seeds
23.  Lamb
24.  Cashews
25.  Crab
26.  Mushrooms
Omega-3 fatty acids
1.       Salmon
2.      Tuna
3.      Mackerel

 
Vitamin C fruits
1.       Guava, 1 medium
2.      Papaya, 1 cup
3.      Strawberries, 1 cup
4.      Kiwi, 1 medium
5.      Cantaloupe, 1 cup
6.      Orange, 1 medium
7.      Grapefruit, half
Selenium
1.       Tuna
2.      Red snapper
3.      Lobster
4.      Shrimp
5.      Whole grains
6.      Vegetables
7.      Brown rice
8.      Egg yolks
9.      Cottage cheese
10.   Chicken (white meat)
11.    Sunflower seeds
12.   Garlic
13.   Brazil nuts
14.   Lamb chops
Supplements
1.       Vitamin C
2.      Probiotic
3.       Multi-vitamin
 

What do you do this time of year to keep your children healthy?


Tuesday, September 9, 2014

To stand

I recently posted about how difficult things have been at our house with one of the harder 3-year old phases. Then last night my husband rented "Mom's Night Out" on Redbox. (By the way, if you are a parent, you must watch that movie!) This all got me thinking about motherhood...

1. Talk about your problems.

I think so much of the time we don't talk about our problems. There was a scene in the movie where the lead character slowed down and talked to another struggling mom about how hard motherhood is. The struggling mom looked at the main character, "You don't have it all together?" We had spent the majority of the movie watching how this main character was struggling with motherhood and balancing life and happiness and marriage, yet this other struggling mom perceived that the main character had it all together. Not saying that we need to walk around with a sign and tell every Tom, Dick, and Stanley we meet that "I HAVE NO CLUE WHAT I'M DOING" but it is so important to be open and honest with your friends.

Why?

2. Because no one has it all together.

I think sometimes we think that there are people out there that "have it all together." I loved in the movie when the mom pulled up to church and saw these other moms standing outside dressed beautifully, hair done, and she mutters, "They must have nannies." The other day we took the boys to Monkey Joe's. We had another long day in the house staring us down and we thought it would be nice to take them somewhere where they could be kids-- run and jump without getting in trouble. Apparently there was a birthday party going on there because a parade of well-dressed children poured out of a party room. I mean, coordinating Janie and Jack type children. I have never seen so much embroidered seersucker in one place. There were mothers hovering outside the bounce houses in jeweled flip flops, silk shirts, and chunky necklaces waiting to fix ginormous bows perched on their little girls' heads. Dads wearing boat shoes, pressed shorts, and collared shirts followed after siblings proclaiming their siblinghood, "Big brother" written in checkered applique next to matching "Little brother." I took a look at our boys and hoped they looked decent....before wondering why I cared how they looked next to these kids. I wondered how these parents had it all together. Did they have it all together? They certainly looked like they had it far more together than our boys. When we leave the house in coordinating, clean outfits it is after a good solid 30-minutes of negotiating and threats.

3. Because we need support.

I cannot tell you how horrible last week was for me. It really did end in tears. I had organized dinner with my girlfriends earlier in the week because I was needing a night out, but by the time the night came I didn't want to go. I was emotionally exhausted. I felt like a drained, failure of a parent that didn't deserve a night out. The thought of making small talk made me cringe. I wanted to go to dinner and have a glass of wine... followed by the rest of the bottle. My husband came home from work and said, "Go. You need it. At the very least, go and listen to the conversation and enjoy a nice meal out." So I went and, guess what? It was amazing. It was so nice to chat with my girlfriends and hear about their problems as well. Listening to them drove home the point I'M NOT THE ONLY ONE. I felt myself relaxing at dinner and really enjoying myself. It really was what I needed to unwind. The next morning I woke up feeling like I could handle the day, the first time in a week or so that I didn't wake up thinking, "What fresh hell is going to happen today?" Talking to others isn't just a way to get support for ourselves, but to offer support to our friends. On the drive home from dinner, my girlfriend told me that she's been struggling with a phase with her little one and she tells herself, "I just have one right now and Kimber has four!" And when I'm balancing all my things at my house, I tell myself, "She has a toddler, is pregnant, and is finishing her degree!" It is so nice to lean on each other and get that support. It is so nice to hear that you aren't alone, that you aren't the only one struggling, and to hear how other people have dealt with similar issues and how they got through it.

4. Get the help you need.

The week before last was rough. Last week was a horrible, no good, very bad week. I cried a lot on Friday. I felt fried and tired and alone. I missed my mom. I missed my far away friends. I missed our old duty station and all our playdates there. I missed my husband who is working a lot. I felt like I had nothing else to give. So I started filling my calendar. I need interaction time with friends. I need quality time with my kids. My husband and I have been reading The Five Love Languages by Gary Chapman. Through that we've discovered my love language is quality time. I really feel that is part of the problem why these days are so draining when they are going through these phases-- I don't feel like I'm getting any quality time with them since each day is so stressful and full of tantrums. On top of that, when my husband gets home we aren't getting much quality time since he's exhausted from work and I'm exhausted from dealing with the 3-year olds' tantrums all day. Filling up my calendar has helped a lot. I am getting face time with other moms who tell me, "Girl, me too! I hear you!" I'm getting the kids out and about so they can stretch their legs somewhere new (or throw a fit somewhere new). When my husband gets home, we all have something to talk about other than tantrums. The kids tell them about the new park we went to and I get to tell him about the overall adventure. It has been important to me to reach out to others and get that support. Another "guess what" moment: when I reached out to my friends and said, "Hey, the kids are going through a really rough phase right now and I really need to meet up with you. Let's put something on the calendar," they have all been responsive! "My kids too. I would love to meet up with you!" We are all in this together.

5. Remember-- it is only a phase.

For me, it really helps to remind myself over and over (and over and over and over) again that it is only a phase... it will pass... this won't go on forever... Because it is true. It won't be like this forever. That doesn't make it easier in the midst of it, but it does help me find the strength to dig my heels in and pray, to not cave when I need to stand strong. It might sound a little dramatic, but the other day in my Love God Greatly devotional, we got on the subject of the full armor of God. I love the verse in Ephesians 6:13, "Therefore put on the full armor of God, so that when the day of evil comes, you may be able to stand your ground, and after you have done everything, to stand." How often does this happen in motherhood? You nicely identify the behavior your 3-year old needs to adjust, "We don't put stickers on the table. Stickers go on paper." You redirect the behavior, "How about you put your stickers on this piece of paper instead of the table?" You give the warning, "If you don't put the stickers on the paper, you can't play with them." You give them the last chance, "This is the last time I'm going to tell you that stickers must be put on paper. Next time I'm taking the stickers away." And then you follow through. There is flailing, gnashing of teeth, wailing... and so you follow through with time to rest in their room and pull themselves together. Yet while you are doing that the other 3-year old is busy "writing" with a permanent marker on your handmade kitchen table and your kindergartner is asking over and over again if you can play Uno with him now and the baby is starting to fuss because it is time to eat... and then the dog is bumming at the door to go potty and the pot on the stove starts to boil over. Those are the times that I think of the armor of God and standing firm. When I have done all that I can, all that I know how to do, when I have gone through my Rolodex of good parenting, I stand firm. Ephesians 6:18 tells us, "And pray in the Spirit on all occasions with all kinds of prayers and requests..." Turn to God, mommas. Turn to each other. Put on the armor of God so that when you have done everything, you can stand.

I loved that the movie "Mom's Night Out" concluded with a heart to heart from Trace Adkins where he told her how hard she was on herself. It is true. We are hard on ourselves. What standard are we trying to live up to? Our perception of the seersucker kids at Monkey Joe's? The mom who shows up to church in heels and a clean dress? Or that we think our friends will judge us if we open up to them? As the main character sits with her husband at the end of the movie, she watches her kids and says, "It is hard, but it is worth it." It is so worth it. It is hard. Life doesn't slow down so we can figure out the hard moments with a clear mind.

If you continue reading in Ephesians, Paul says in 6:19-20, "Pray also for me, that whenever I speak, words may be given me so that I will fearlessly make known the mystery of the gospel, for which I am an ambassador in chains. Pray that I may declare it fearlessly, as I should." Have you ever left a church and seen the sign at the end of the parking lot, "You are now entering the mission field?" What a great reminder. This is our job. We often question ourselves, doubt ourselves, cave when we should stand, cry because we don't know what to do... Paul asks for prayers so that he will have the words and that he will fearlessly deliver them. We are witnessing to our children. We are ambassadors of Christ, in chains to the gospel, delivering the Good News day in and day out. It's time to lean on each other, lift each other up, put on the armor of God, and fearlessly parent through Christ.

Friday, September 5, 2014

One of those phases...


I sat down this morning to write a blog post on our family schedule and why routines work well for us. However, as I was typing our toddlers kept interrupting me with issue after issue.

Whining.

Whining.

Whining.

I eventually felt myself getting more and more frustrated, losing my train of thought and writing long, rambling paragraphs that lead nowhere. I saved the blog post and closed the browser.

I tried switching gears. I reached out to a fellow momma and shared my frustrations, got some support; even texting someone can help get some encouragement. I switched activities. Obviously blogging wasn't going to happen; let's color! Let's start school earlier than usual. Let's do something organized together.

I called our kindergartner back inside to do some school. He got out his school supplies. One of our toddlers started whining, unprovoked. Literally standing in the middle of the room making high-pitched whiny, screeching noises over and over again. I gave him a warning. I invited him to sit with us and to color. He persisted. I walked him to his room and told him whining was unacceptable. He started screaming and hitting the door when I closed it. I took a deep breath and prayed, "God, let me love my kids through you. Let me show them your love."

I went back to the table with the other 2 boys, a toddler and our kindergartner. We said the Pledge of Allegiance. We prayed together. I went back to get the toddler in quiet time and asked if he wanted to join us. He declined and said he was sorry for whining and that he wanted to play in the playroom. He started getting dressed in costumes. I resumed school with the other 2 boys. The toddler at the table finished coloring and said he wanted to do costumes; he cleaned up his markers and went to the playroom. Moments later the first toddler came out of the playroom whining, whining, whining. I instructed him to use his words. He was frustrated; his backpack was broken. I informed him it was upside down and that is why everything was falling out. I offered to help him. He backed away whining. He let out the high pitch screeching whine over and over and so I walked him to his room to collect himself. He whined and whined at the door. I prayed. I went back to school with the other 2. I came back awhile later to ask if he wanted to come out of his room and he threw a toy at the door. I tucked him in for a nap and told him he needed to rest. I came back to do the calendar with the other 2 boys. It went well. We did our thing and then the other toddler started whining-- expressionless, unprovoked whining. Why? I didn't know so I asked him to do his calendar job. He stood motionless whining. I gave him a warning. He whined. I escorted him to his room to rest as well.

I stood outside their door and felt the tears well up in my eyes. What am I doing wrong? Why are they constantly whining and fighting?

Yesterday we had a list of errands to run. On the actual errands, they were obedient and well behaved. They stood in line with me at the Post Office. They waited in the returns line at Costco. But as soon as we got in the car it was constant bickering-- constant bickering. Wild slapping in the direction of their brother, screeching at the top of their lungs, "NO!", yelling, whining, throwing, flailing, moaning...

I'm exhausted. This behavior has been going on for over a week. Throw in there some potty training regression and the constant whining and bickering has just about drained me. I put them down to nap and they spend the entire time opening their respective doors bumming, "Can I come out now?" I wake up in the morning to the sounds of the toddlers fussing and fighting and whining and arguing in the hall bathroom. I put them to bed after listening to them fuss and fight and whine and argue all.day.long.

I go through moments where I feel confident and think, "This is a phase. I understand it is a phase. I understand that parenting is hard and that some phases are more enjoyable than other phases. I know their brains are developing. I know they have dealt with big changes from their dad starting prototype and being gone all day. I know we will come out of this okay and to focus on the positives."

And then there are other moments where I cringe at the thought of riding in the car with them and so I don't want to leave the house.

Where I think about how quickly they grow up and how one day they won't be 3-years old anymore, they will be 6-years old and I will wonder where the time went.

Where I hear other moms talk about how the toddler years are their favorite.

Where I'm crying in the laundry room and texting my mom because I just don't know what else to do and I feel so alone.

Where I miss our old duty station because I had friends who were going through the same thing with me, who have kids the same age as mine, who invited us over for playdates and park dates and coffee dates.

Where I just hate spending all day long listening to them fight with each other.

Those moments I feel like a horrible parent.

I don't know why our toddlers are behaving this way. I spend a lot of time praying and asking God to extend some grace their way, to blanket me in his love so that I can show them his love, to strengthen me so that I have the energy and patience to be consistent. I read parenting books (my favorites: Keep Calm and Parent On and When Mothers Pray). I meditate on Philippians, my favorite book of the Bible. I hold on to those sweet moments with them in between the fussing and the fits. Yet I struggle because the absolute truth is that I am not enjoying myself.

Since I do not have a large friend base here, I've been working on keeping myself busy. I've been focusing a lot on things that I do enjoy doing-- kindergarten with our oldest, taking walks with our infant, reading by myself and with the kids, and cooking. Some of the cooking has been fun to do with the children, even the toddlers. Sometimes it goes downhill quickly and for no reason, like yesterday when one of the toddlers was helping me until he just broke down into a whining mess. Other times they get immense satisfaction from making the meal with me and will channel all their energy into the tasks I give them. I try to have them help me one at a time, stealing moments that I can give them my undivided attention and listen to what they have to say. I try to find tasks that play to their strengths so they can build their self-confidence. I've also been trying to keep our calendar full, inviting friends on playdates, meeting up with girlfriends, doing things with my family. Having 4 children, homeschooling, and life as a Navy wife tend to keep our calendar full and so the hours of the day tend to slip by quickly anyways; I make my best effort to organize those hours in a way that works well for our boys.

This is one of those phases that I am just holding on and hoping that it passes quickly. It has been one of those phases that no matter what I try doesn't seem to make a big difference in how our day goes or how the toddlers behave. It has been one of those phases that make me wish I lived closer to my family and to my girlfriends.

How do you deal with these kind of phases?

Tuesday, August 26, 2014

Power school


Now that my husband has completed power school, I have been wanting to write a blog post on the experience from my perspective. I have found that the blog "(Very) Unofficial Submarine Officer Pipeline Rundown" has been useful during our trek through the pipeline.

My husband went through power school and prototype when he first joined the Navy, before I met him. This was his second time going through power school, last time enlisted, this time officer. I think he had an idea of what to expect from power school, but I had no idea... The blog post "Navy Nuclear Power School Rundown" helped some and from conversations with my husband I knew there would be long hours studying. However, living something is very different than hearing about it.

So what can you expect from power school?

First of all, there are some long, long, long, long hours. Long hours with no cell phones since they cannot bring their cell phones into the school house. If you have to get a hold of him, you call the duty phone and, if it is after school hours, you better know where he studies or they may or may not find him for you in a timely manner.

The other hard thing is that the school hours are not actually very long. Some days start earlier, like the PT days, but for the most part the school hours were fairly reasonable, like 7 am to 3:30 pm/4:30 pm. What makes the day so long is all the study hours. Some guys are required to study a certain amount of hours each week; some have goals of where they want to rank in the class and so they study an insane amount of time to reach that goal; some study and study and study just so they feel comfortable with the material and confident for the next test; some put more time in on certain days so that they can put in less time on other days. All of this was hard for me because it took us awhile to figure out a schedule that worked for us. When my husband felt done studying, he wanted to leave school and come home to relax and take a break. He would come home unexpectedly, play outside with the kids, stay for dinner, and then want to leave when he was ready to head back-- except I was pregnant and the kids were all riled up from playing with Daddy, the kitchen was covered in dinner dishes, and bath time was still 2 hours away! I also really disliked when he would come home for a break, head back in for awhile, and then come home shortly after I put the kids to bed. I loved having some one on one time with him, but, man, the days were so long and I could really have used his help putting the boys down instead of him showing up half hour after they were sleeping! It took us awhile, but we eventually found a schedule that worked for us. I completely understood that sometimes he just needed a break from studying and he completely understood how frustrating it was for him to come home each night just after I had put all the kids to bed by myself. Since my husband is a more of a morning person, he started waking up early and studying before school when he was freshest, finishing his homework after school, and then coming home for the evening. On days when felt he needed to study more, he would bathe the kids and put them in pajamas while I cleaned up the kitchen. That way I just needed to read stories before putting the kids to bed. It was a routine that worked for us. There were also a lot of times that he needed to study on the weekends. Figuring out a time on the weekends took us awhile too. We thought we would like getting studying out of the way early in the day, but it ended up working out that I was waking up by myself with the kids 7 days a week and feeling burnt out. If he had a lot of studying he needed to do, he would wake up early and go in. If he just needed to study some, he would head in after breakfast so we could all eat together and have some face time with him. Going in for 4 hours on a weekend morning after breakfast worked better for us than going in for 4 hours before we woke up. It really did take us awhile to figure out what worked best for us.

The other thing that was different for us is that we were more of the exception at power school. A lot of people in his class were newly married or dating. There were a handful of people with kids and most of them had 1, maybe 2, kids. Often, if 2 kids, they were pregnant with the second. I was pregnant with our 4th child and my husband was STA-21. Sometimes I felt awkward making friends and getting together with other couples was a bit challenging at first. When we were invited to our first backyard barbecue with friends of ours that were newly married, we were so excited and nervous. We really wanted it to go well so we would be "accepted" by these couples-- amazingly enough, it went awesome! The kids were so well behaved. We hung out at their house until just after 9 pm-- big for our boys that fall asleep at 8 pm on the dot. My husband and I high fived each other as we walked home that night! Turns out we didn't have anything to worry about. Once the ice was broken, we easily made friends with other couples in the class. However, I have noticed that the other people in his class-- dating, newly married, single-- really have explored the area much more than we have. When he was gone in class all day long, my pregnant self was tired by the time he came home and really looking forward to a quiet, family dinner at home, not battling traffic to try a hole in the wall downtown. When he had time off on the weekends, we eventually took advantage of nearby beaches and found some family restaurants, but often he was catching up on time that he had missed during his busy week-- playing basketball with the boys, working on his woodworking projects, golfing with our oldest, movie nights with me, Costco trips... So, like the guy said in the (Very) Unofficial Submarine Officer Pipeline Rundown, "Being one of the few married guys in my particular class, I didn't get out much. But most of my fellow classmates went out quite a bit."

Since my husband was STA-21, we had just come from him going through college. I thought getting a mechanical engineering degree in 3 years with a family-- having twins during finals week to boot-- would help prepare us for power school. On some level, yes, it did. I know my husband's study style and I know that studying is important for him. However, it was nice when he was in college to have the option for him to study at home. There is no option for him to study at home in power school since all the materials are classified and must be locked up each night at the school house. Power school was very different than college. It was a fast, intense, whirlwind. I was immensely looking forward to his graduation and I know he was too. He was mentally exhausted by the time power school was over and I was well over the power school schedule.

Another question for me was the power school graduation. I didn't know how formal it would be, if I could bring the kids, yadda yadda. It turned out to be just the right degree of formal. I probably could have managed the toddlers there, but I was very grateful that we had a baby-sitter to watch them, especially since I was exceedingly pregnant by that point. We all got to dress nice. They made it very family friendly, inviting people to approach the stage when your sailor's class was called so you could take pictures. It was outdoors, so people were wandering the back with their children. They had restrooms and snacks. My husband insisted that he wanted me to go-- I was planning on staying home since I was so pregnant-- and I was glad I listened to him and went. I had worried I would be uncomfortable on the chairs for that long, but the ceremony clipped right along. I got some great pictures of him graduating. I had a snack. I could take our oldest to the restroom. If you are wondering what to wear to the graduation, think Easter Sunday without all the pastels. :)

All in all, I am glad power school is over. It was only 6 months, but the school was exhausting for my husband and for us. There were some bonuses, like if I gave him warning, he could plan on coming home early to watch the kids so I could make an appointment-- things like that.

Now that power school is over, we have prototype and SOBC to look forward to!

How was your experience going through power school as a Navy spouse?