Dogs and the Baby

Oh, dogs and babies. As an expectant parent, it was one of my biggest stresses - how will our dogs do with the baby? How should we introduce the dogs to the baby? What if they hate each other? What if the dogs love him TOO much?

We had a lot of worries when it came to our dogs and bringing a baby home. Our dogs are super spoiled and were our only babies for a very long time – we’ve had Cullen for five years, Ranger for four, and Hadley for a year and a half, and they’re all very used to being our primary focus when we’re at home. Lots of cuddles, lots of play time, and they pretty much never got ignored.

Until this little guy joined the family. And then? They had to come to a pretty quick realization that they weren’t the most important things in our lives anymore. For the first couple of months with Jackson, it was almost impossible to give them any attention. We were so focused on him and figuring out our new normal. Now that we’ve settled into a good routine, the dogs get much more love than they were getting, but they still aren’t quite as prioritized as they used to be.

When I was pregnant, we were pretty sure we knew exactly how the dogs would react. We thought Ranger would pout for a few months (like he did when we brought Hadley home) and that he’d pretty much hate the baby. We thought Cullen would be totally and completely obsessed with him, and we thought Hadley would be somewhere in the middle – wanting to love on the baby, but also slightly jealous.

We were wrong. Well, not completely. We were dead on with our predictions about Cullen. He is absolutely 100% obsessed with Jackson and would spend his entire day licking Jackson’s face if we’d let him. When we get home and are taking Jackson out of his carseat, Cullen runs around us and does everything in his power to see the baby and make sure he’s okay. He loves snuggling with us when we’re holding Jack, and basically can’t spend enough time right next to him.

The other two surprised us, though. Hadley did not like Jackson when we first brought him home. He stole our attention from her, he made annoying sounds, and she was just generally not a fan. We never were afraid that she would get aggressive, but we watched her extremely closely anytime she came near him. She would often act like she was trying to bury him by pushing pillows or blankets toward him with her nose, which made us nervous, and she was just uneasy around him in general.

Now that she’s used to him, she doesn’t do that anymore and she ignores him for the most part. Sometimes she’ll sniff at him, but usually if she’s near him it’s just because she’s trying to get close to me or Corey. We’re both very confident that as he gets older and is able to actually interact with her, she’ll grow to love him. For now, though, she’s pretty uninterested.

Ranger is probably the one who surprised us the most. From day one, he accepted Jackson as part of our “pack”, and has been very protective of him and very gentle. If Jackson cries, Ranger has to make sure he’s okay, and he’s constantly checking in on him to make sure he’s not in trouble. When we give Jackson a bath, Ranger always comes into the bathroom and watches, and he’s just been so much more accepting than we ever thought he would be. It’s so sweet to watch, and we know he’ll love Jack even more once he gets bigger and can actually play with him.

So, what did we do to prepare the dogs for the baby?

First off, when I was pregnant I made a conscious effort to start giving the dogs slightly less attention so it wasn’t too much of a shock. I didn’t totally ignore them, but I’d make them wait several minutes after I got home before I talked to them, and I just generally started to try to decrease the amount of direct attention they got.

The biggest (and I think most helpful) thing we did was when we brought him home. We had the dogs boarded at the vet while we were in the hospital, and we got ourselves home and settled before we went to get them. I stayed home with Jackson and Corey went to get the dogs, and he brought some of Jack’s clothes from the hospital with him. When he picked the dogs up, he immediately let them smell the clothes, and kept the clothes with them the whole way home. While they were out, I got Jackson settled in his room so that we could spend a few minutes with the dogs before introducing everyone.

When they got home, I closed Jackson’s door and came downstairs, and we spent a few minutes just us and the dogs, giving them as much love as we could. We also gave them a few more things that smelled like Jackson so they could be very familiar with the smell. When we were ready to introduce them, we headed upstairs with the dogs and brought them into his room. We let them check him out through the crib for a few minutes, and took it all very slowly. We just left him in his crib until the dogs started to lose interest, so we could be sure they weren’t too excited when we got him out.

When I grabbed him out of his crib, the dogs were curious, but calm. I let them sniff at him and was careful to stay quiet and not yell at them – if they got too close or started to get riled up, I’d calmly tell them to stop and would move away. They quickly learned if they wanted to see the baby, they had to do it gently.

After that initial introduction, it has been pretty smooth sailing. The dogs definitely love him and they know he’s a part of the family, but they leave him alone for the most part and have all been very gentle with him. We never leave Jackson alone in a room with them, and we never let ourselves get too comfortable with them together – we know dogs can be unpredictable, so even though they’ve been awesome so far, we never take that for granted.

I’m excited to see how they all do together as Jackson grows and begins to be able to interact with them. I think they’re going to love having another human in the house who can give them attention, and I’m glad Jackson will grow up with three amazing dogs who already love him.

Do you have pets and kids? Any other great ideas on introducing them and helping everyone get along?

Easter 2014

Yesterday was our first major holiday with Jackson around (Valentine’s Day doesn’t count since we don’t usually celebrate it and he was only about two weeks old)…and it was fabulous!

Every Easter we head out to my grandmother’s house for a big meal, hide some eggs, and spend time with the family. Jackson (obviously) isn’t old enough to participate in the egg hunting, so he napped while the rest of us hid eggs and watched my nieces hunt them. They’re both old enough now that we really have to get creative with the hiding, so it was quite a challenge to find new spots that are harder than our go-to spots we hide eggs in most years.

It’s pretty crazy to think that next year Jack will be old enough to participate in the hunting (though we’ll have to make it really easy for him)! I’m already pretty baffled by how fast he’s growing. He’s started rolling over when he’s on his tummy, and he’s become fascinated with toys – I’m so used to him totally ignoring them that it’s super strange to see him so interested!

This made me even more excited for future holidays with our little family. Jackson is only going to get more fun and interactive from here, and it’s so rewarding to experience all the same old things through his eyes. He’s encouraging me to take more photos, do more fun things, be more present, and enjoy all of the little celebrations in life that I didn’t appreciate before.

He’s pretty awesome. And I have to say, half the fun is just getting to get him all dressed up for the day! I mean, what could possibly be cuter than a baby in a sweater vest?

Absolutely nothing, that’s what.

How was your Easter?

Brain Dump

It’s been a while since I’ve done a brain dump style post. There isn’t much happening in our house right now (thanks to state testing season and the almost-three-month-old who has taken over our lives) but I’ve got a lot on my mind, so let’s dive right in.

Those of you out there who are already parents are going to laugh at me for this one, but holy cow I don’t think I realized how much having a baby would change everything. Don’t take that as a negative – I love my sweet little boy with all of my heart. But I honestly don’t think I ever could have been prepared for how much his arrival would turn my world upside down. Absolutely everything is different. Some of it is way better. Some of it is way harder. All of it requires a major adjustment. I feel like since he was born, we have been in a fog of new-parenthood, just trying to figure things out one day at a time. Some days we feel like we are doing awesome, and some days we wonder how we’re going to make it out alive. But now that he’s 11 weeks old, I feel like we are finally settling into a groove and things are getting easier. I finally gave Cullen a haircut for the first time in about three months the other day, I’m able to keep my house relatively clean, and I’m managing to cook dinner most nights. It’s a start!

Every year right around this time I reach a point where I am just over the school year. I think everyone in the whole school does. April is always a hard month to get through, because the weather is warming up and you want to spend all day outside, but you’re still over a month away from summer. May is easier because it feels like one long celebration of the end of the year, and you’re really in the final countdown. So, I’m in my April funk right now, but hopefully these last few weeks will go by quickly and May will be here soon…and then it’s really almost summer!

We took Jackson’s first bluebonnet pictures this weekend (Jackson and I went with some friends one day and Corey came back with us the next day!). For those of you who don’t live in Texas, you should know that it’s basically a requirement to take yearly photos in the bluebonnets. They’re so gorgeous and it’s impossible to resist them. I could just lay in this field all day long. It’s only about a quarter of a mile from our house, so maybe I will!

I made this strawberry cake this weekend and I cannot stop thinking about it. I’ve made it before, but I think I forgot how amazing it is. I honestly could have just eaten the batter and nothing else because it’s just that tasty, but the baked cake is pretty darn amazing too. Yum, yum, yum.

I cannot contain my excitement over Mad Men being back. I’m pretty mad that they’re splitting the season over two years, so I’ll be soaking up each of the seven (only seven??!) episodes we get this year. Corey and I are also excited about Game of Thrones, but we don’t have HBO so we’re behind already. Good thing we’ve read the books so there aren’t really any spoilers! Oh, and, can we talk about Kitchen Nightmares? Tell me I am not the only one hopelessly addicted to that show. Corey and I watched the season premiere this weekend, where they revisited Amy’s Baking Company…and oh goodness, those people are nuts. That show is so bad but oh so good.

What’s on your mind lately? What shows are you addicted to right now?

Wish me Luck…

Today I go back to work.

I’m dreading it. I always have said I would love to be a stay-at-home mom but now that I have had a taste of it, there’s nothing I want more than to stay home with Jackson. These last seven weeks have been absolutely perfect and I absolutely hate the thought of leaving him with someone else today.

But, sadly, it’s not really an option for us. So off to work I go.

This week is probably going to be (very) rough on our whole family, so I won’t be back to post until next week. Until then, I could use your thoughts and prayers as I get settled back into work. Let’s hope Jackson and I both can make it through the day with minimal crying.

Anyone made the back to work transition recently? Tell me it’s not as awful as I am imagining it will be!

The Holiday Bucket List

I shared about our holiday bucket list and what we had accomplished so far a couple of weeks ago. We decided to go this route this year instead of an activity advent calendar, and I’m so glad we did. It was very laid back, easy to keep up with, and I didn’t put a ton of pressure on myself to cross everything off. I was all about enjoying this holiday season in whatever way I was in the mood to do, and I wasn’t about to force myself to do an activity I didn’t want to – I figure we have plenty of years of doing crazy holiday things for Monster ahead of us, so this was one of our last chances to have a very relaxed holiday season.

Now that December’s over, here’s where we ended up with our list.

- For our “top 5″ from the year, we decided to each write down the top five moments or memories from 2013 and toss them in our little memory jar. We opened it up on New Years Day, and it was so much fun to relive all of the highlights from the year. I’m so glad we did this jar, because I loved looking back and reading all of the little moments we jotted down as they happened. I don’t know that we’ll do it again for 2014 – we weren’t very good about keeping up with it – but it was very fun to try out!

- Corey took me on a surprise date to our favorite movie theater a few days before Christmas – I had no idea what I was in for until we arrived, but we were going to see a sneak peek of the new season of Downton Abbey! It was a free event put on by our local PBS station, and it was so much fun. We got to watch the last 45 minutes of the last season finale (and I bawled and bawled all over again), then we got to watch the entire season premiere for this season. It got me really pumped for the new season and I can’t wait to start watching it in a few weeks when it comes out!

- We baked tons (and tons) of cookies in the days leading up to Christmas. It’s a yearly tradition for us to do two rounds of cookie baking – one to give to friends at work and one to bring to my Grandmother’s for Christmas Eve. It was, as usual, a blast and one of my favorite parts of the holiday.

- Our attempt at a family photo this year was a major flop. The dogs are getting harder and harder to corral now that there are three of them (last year Hadley was still a puppy and relatively easy to hold still), so this was the best “family photo” we managed. Ah well, it was worth a shot right? I think we decided that starting next year we’re kicking the dogs out and it will have to be a humans-only family photo – it’s just not worth the stress!

- In addition to playing a ton of Marbles (what my family calls it – I’m sure it has a more official name) over the holiday season, we also tried out a new game for our game night. Corey got a super nerdy new game for his birthday a few months back (called Munchkin) and hadn’t ever really had the chance to play it. It’s supposed to be a game played with more than 2 people, but the directions are like 7 pages long and super confusing, and I’ve been afraid to play it with him (or ask anyone else to play with us) because I was convinced it would be awful. One night, though, we decided to try it out just the two of us to see if we could get the hang of it, and it was FUN! It took a while to learn, but I was pleasantly surprised by how much I enjoyed it (although, I’ll warn you, it’s DEFINITELY nerdy!) – we ended up spending a few nights earlier this week playing it, and now we’re excited to introduce it to some other people so we can actually play with the proper amount of players. So,  I can definitely say we were able to cross “game night” off our list!

There were a few things we didn’t get around to this season – we never watched The Grinch (sad!) or went to look at Christmas lights. We also skipped having a picnic under the Christmas tree, mostly because at 8 1/2 months pregnant, the last thing I want to be doing is sitting on the floor. We didn’t have our “No technology day” this year, mostly because we want to do it on a day where we can actually leave the house and do fun things (it’s hard to spend the entire day at home without resorting to the television or our computers), but thanks to budget constraints (prepping for a baby is expensive, y’all!) we spent most of our break at the house and decided to pass on a big day out of the house where we might spend a lot of money! And, we haven’t eaten s’mores or gone out for ice cream yet, but we still have a few days left in our break and I think we may be able to accomplish at least one of those before we head back to work!

What did you want to accomplish this holiday season? Did you cross everything off your bucket list?