Under Our Umbrella, Eh Eh Eh (Our Rainy Canadian Vacation)

20171123_110323

Hello! This month marks five years since I began this blog, in a pumpkin pie coma and pregnant with my first baby, Anderson, as a platform to write more and document some of my stories as a new mom, among other parts of my life.  Two kids, two homes and several computers later…the writing below is my 60th published essay here in as many months. Thank you so much for reading and for cheering me on over the ups and downs I’ve shared in this space.  I hope you enjoy reading about our Canadian adventure below, and only roll your eyes slightly at my title Rihanna shout-out (I really, really couldn’t help myself…).

In celebration of five years chugging away (some years more frequently than others) at this crazy blogging machine, here are five weird facts about me, the blogger:

  1. I am an obsessive proofreader and typically read something I write no fewer than five times, start to finish, checking for spelling errors, grammar, punctuation…even spacing.  I’m a true grammar nerd; I inherited the gene from my dad (we were both UW journalism school grads, exactly 30 years apart).  Go Dawgs (though the spelling of that pains me)!
  2. I’ve written most of my blog posts at my kitchen counter or dining room table, often while a baby naps or late at night after the kids are in bed, usually in bits and pieces over several sittings.  I have memories of my early blogging days, with hands on the keyboard and one foot constantly bouncing Anderson up and down….up and down…in his bouncer as I clicked away, determined to get out my thoughts du jour.
  3. I am an entirely self-taught blogger, fueled by pure determination, aided by the user-friendliness of WordPress, much trial and error and a lot of time spent poking around for what I’m looking for.  If I can do it – anyone can!
  4. The embarrassing/vulnerable/awkward stories are ultimately the ones I’m proudest to have shared.  I’ve learned they bring out the humanity in me, and in people who read and comment on them.
  5. “Perfect is the enemy of good” has become my mantra for writing (and much of life!).  The biggest reason I go weeks or months without writing, is because I’m waiting for some grand lightning bolt of inspiration to strike.  As unparalleled as those rare moments are, sometimes writing is a grind.  This blog is a hybrid of the inspired, and the grind.  Also, like life.

Cheers to more years!

Now on to our family’s first international vacation…

Canada, eh?  The idea to foray into the great territory to our north came while sitting with Aaron and our friends, Brandon and Liana, at dinner during a Junior League of Seattle charity event last February.  In one of our more spontaneous decisions, we decided to bid on a 4-night trip to Whistler over Thanksgiving weekend.  It sounded like a festive way to kick off the Christmas season, and we’d never taken the kids out of the country.  What could go wrong?  We easily won the bidding without much competition, and in the blink of an eye – our first trip to Canada was cemented.

Leading up to the trip, my excitement was lukewarm at best.  I was nervous and somewhat regretful of our kneejerk decision to commit to this trip.  Among my chief concerns: Would our kids have major crying/screaming/whining meltdowns during the 5+ hour drive each way (answer:  OF COURSE!).  Par for the course with a 2- and 4-year-old.  No one with kids this age vacations for the drive, people.

Onward to the Thanksgiving Eve morning of our departure.  Naturally, Anderson finished “reading” all the books he had brought before we backed out of our garage.  Two drive-through coffees and a half hour later we were on 1-5.  The boys lasted 75 minutes before we broke out the Amazon Fire tablets, and a whopping 3.75 hours(!!) before we made our first and only pit-stop, for lunch in a cute little Canadian town called Lions Bay.  We ordered an Americano, London Fog latte and turkey and cranberry (me: “It’s like Thanksgiving!”) sandwiches.  I’m surprised they didn’t kick us out of Canada right then.

thumbnail_20171122_124850

20171122_130034

 

Releasing the energy they’d pent up for hours, the boys ran around the small café and attached store, and Anderson did what big brothers do best by poking, prodding and generally annoying a shrieking Jude, whom I attempted to distract by letting him scroll through photos on my phone, at which point Aaron said, “Jude seems to be swiping left on you a lot, Anderson.  It’s his quiet way of saying no.”

With lunch and a mere 38-minute border wait behind us, we limped through the last 90 minutes of the drive, pulling into Whistler’s slushy cobblestone streets (most of the village snow would be washed away by rain during our stay…).  No turning back now!

The drives were the low points of the trip, but once there Whistler was more charming and expansive than I’d remembered from my last visit almost two decades ago in high school.  We filled our days with strolls through the village, snowball fights in Olympic Plaza, hot chocolate breaks, spaghetti and sushi dinners, and hours of Lego building back at the condo.  Jude was a little under the weather, so when we took him outside he resembled the kid in A Christmas Story who is so bundled up he can’t drop his arms to his sides.

thumbnail_20171123_110728

Our last full day there, we gave Anderson the option to take a ski lesson (his first) through the kids’ ski school.  He decided he did want to, and off he went with his Australian instructor (I swear half the staff we came in contact with hailed from Down Under…I don’t know why this is a thing??), and three other preschoolers.  The jury is still out as to whether we’re raising a future winter Olympian (averse to most new things, he currently claims he doesn’t want to go skiing again “for a million years!”), but he admits he enjoyed the mountain-side hot chocolate, and the pictures sure are cute.

blackcomb002blackcomb001

As cold as my feet were going into this trip, I’m so glad we did it.  Whistler did not disappoint.  You can just feel something special in the air there.  From the carefree sense of letting loose and adventuring, to the warm and cozy quaintness of the well-worn streets filled with people and languages from all over the world.  A world-class destination with a small town vibe.

You can bet we’ll be back.  I’d even bid on it.

20171125_141759

PS – I consider myself somewhat of a bakery fanatic, and Whistler has one of the prettiest ones I’ve ever seen:

20171125_093141

 

PPS  – As a very random and somewhat inappropriate aside, I just really love the tidbits of conversation one picks up at an après-ski fireside lounge at the end of the day, from its happy, unguarded, on-vacation and likely inebriated patrons.  Take this, for example, overheard as I paced outside said restaurant with a cranky Jude, while Aaron took his turn downing hard hot chocolate:

Woman: “Do you know what percentage of women enjoy being sent a picture of a man’s penis?  Zero.  Zero percent.”

Woman’s friend:  “That number seems high.”

I internally laughed so hard that I almost spit out my hot chocolate.

And with THAT vision of sugarplums dancing in our heads…Merry Christmas Season to all and to all a good night!

20171125_163907

 

 

 

 

 

 

My First Year with Two

heleyna-holmes-photography-0278

What will I remember in the long run when I think back on my first year as a mother of two?

I wonder if I’ll remember the nap schedules I have meticulously planned life around (I doubt it), or the silky soft baby thighs that jiggle like under-set Jello (I hope so).  Or the countless times I’ve joked that I need a black and white striped referee’s uniform and the word, “GENTLE” tattooed across my forehead, as I’ve all but ground down molars watching my older son eagerly explore big brother terrain.

I wonder if I’ll be able to vividly recall the frail, nauseating, mind-bending pain of rock bottom sleep deprivation.  Or if I’ll just laugh and brush off those “sleepless nights” as something I vaguely remember, or even merely assume that we went through (because every parent does, right?), when I think back years from now.

Perhaps I’ll have trouble recalling what exactly it was we did with all the hours in the days we had together, me on my own with a baby and a toddler.  The 80 pounds of double stroller and kids I pushed up and down hills, to parks and the library and Starbucks. The hundreds of times my older son made the younger one laugh…and cry…and everything in between.

Will I remember the precise strategy involved in a trip to the grocery store with two kids?  The careful order in which I unbuckled each car seat and somehow maneuvered myself, two little humans and a shopping cart safely in and out of stores, elevators and parking lots with the nuance of navigating a corn maze?   I’m sure I’ll never remember details like that.  I’ll just lump it all together as a “busy time.”

Will I be too hard on myself and feel guilty for the missed opportunities to “be present” with my kids?  Will I wish I ignored dirty dishes more often to slam little cars together on the floor with my preschooler when he asked me to?  Probably.  Will I wish I more fully embraced nursing the second time around, instead of counting the days until I never had to lug around a breast pump or be awoken from the discomfort of engorgement ever again?  I’m sure hindsight perspective will be 20/20.

I wonder if I’ll close my eyes and be able to picture Jude’s wispy “clown hair,” as I call it, and the pink rough patches of eczema that persistently marked his little cheeks that first year.  They’ve become endearing to me now.

Will I one day break into laughter when I remember, for the first time in years, how I once said that Jude’s crazy hair and sparsely gapped teeth as a baby caused him to somewhat resemble Sloth, the chained, monstrous-looking brother from The Goonies? 

I hope I am never delusional enough to pretend this year was photo-worthy or pulled together all – or even much of – the time.  Much of it was spent simply feeling spent.  Tired.  SO. TIRED.  Unbalanced, frazzled with responsibilities and people and things to tend to and please.  Used pumping parts sat unwashed on the bathroom counter sometimes for days, until I felt like I could catch my breath and stand still for the 90 seconds it took to wash them.

Emails and bills piled up by the dozens, my hair was rarely worn down or styled in between my bi-monthly hair appointments.  I let Anderson watch way too much TV that first summer I had both kids at home, and eat far too few vegetables.

I was consistently imperfect, and I always had a constantly-growing list of goals and “growth opportunities” turning over and over in my mind.  It was relentless – the striving for balance, the longing for acceptance of the present moment, the uncomfortable urge to propel time forward and move past whatever hard thing at the time felt like a weight holding me down.

I hope I remember that I was a good mom.

I hope I remember how some of the sweetest moments of my life were reading my kids bedtime stories when they were young.  Or smelling their hair after a bath.  Or bundling them up and strapping them in side-by-side in their orange double stroller on one of our many neighborhood walks.

I hope I remember how Anderson proudly ran to his brother waiting in his stroller in the hallway each day at preschool pick-up, and how, as the older brother, he embraced the nicknames “Judy” and “Jude Bug” more proudly and enthusiastically than any of us – practically singing them each time his brother re-entered his line of sight.

This past year I learned how to be a mom to two entirely different people. Edit that – I’m still learning and probably always will be.  I’m reliving what it’s like to parent a baby, while continuing to celebrate – and survive- all the “firsts” my 3-year-old hurls my way.  I would, hypothetically, find myself pausing to enjoy the confidence that comes with parenting a second time around, but I’m too busy to bask. I’m too tired.  I give Google fewer anxiety-ridden questions at 2 a.m., but it’s a trade-off for having two mouths to feed, two schedules to juggle, two young minds to engage and entertain for all our waking hours.

This has been the year of potty-training, big boy beds, temper tantrums…sleep coaches, nursing issues and learning how to be the mother of siblings.  I feel like I’m a more polished and prepared parent in some ways, a more spread thin and rundown one in others.

It’s a “new normal” I tell people, adding a second child to the family.  The first six months I often felt like I was underwater – utterly floored by the disorienting, head-spinning busy-ness that comes with adding a new baby to the mix.  The second half of the year I started to find my footing again.  We got through the worst of the sleep stuff, our older son turned three and became more independent, we established a bedtime for the baby and got our evenings back as a couple.  After months of what felt like holding our breath and keeping afloat, we finally began to exhale.

One of the truest things I’ve ever heard about parenting is that while the days can pass by so slowly, the years fly by fast.

Happy Birthday, Jude.

And happy one-year anniversary of “the new normal” to the rest of our family.

Remind me to toast to that. heleyna-holmes-photography-0168

heleyna-holmes-photography-0251

Things I Wish I Wanted To Do

Things I Wish I Wanted To Do

“When you say ‘yes’ to others, make sure you are not saying ‘no’ to yourself.”

– Paulo Coelho

My book club recently read and dissected The Happiness Project by Gretchen Rubin.  Over water and lime wedges (turns out that while I’m no longer pregnant, everyone else is), it became clear this writer’s year-long experiment culminated in a “love it or hate it” book for our little critics’ circle and beyond – as all pop culture hits seem to do to some degree.  What do they say – there’s no such thing as bad press?

While this book was a slow, underwhelming start for me, suddenly around April (the book and the topics and resolutions it entails are divided into months), it was as if a switch flipped and I was ravenously hooked on this Manhattan lawyer/writer/mom/wife’s musing on hundreds of minor tweaks we can make to our daily routines (no Eat, Pray, Love pilgrimage required) to partake in a more fully-examined existence, boost our quality of life, and thus that of those around us.  Things like buying the nice $4.00 pen instead of the crappy 25-cent pen that just feels cheap and always runs out of ink.  Changing the lightbulb yourself instead of nagging your husband to do it.  Listening contentedly to others and resisting the urge to jump in with a competing story of your own.  Accepting a limitation (or more positively, my God-given uniqueness) such as the fact that a certain hairstyle – try as I might – Will. Never. Look. Good. On. Me.

I could go on and on about the author’s simple yet pointed insights on things from learning to laugh at yourself and lighten up with your kids, to the liberation that comes from “tackling a nagging task,” be it a cluttered hall closet or a toxic relationship.  I was obviously in the “love it” camp.

But the section of the book that provided the biggest “aha moment” for me was about how to distinguish between things I truly want to do, and things I wish I wanted to do.

The phrase “I wish I wanted to do that” resonated with me so clearly.  How often do we trick not just others – but ourselves – into believing this forcefully painted picture of our supposed hobbies, inclinations, status, interests and overall identity?  Maybe you love the idea of buying everything organic but you hate the sticker shock you experience in the check-out line.  Or perhaps you think you want to take a big family vacation every summer, but spending a week with your in-laws/great-aunt/cousins/stepchildren actually induces widespread panic attacks.  You wish you wanted to do these things, but when it comes down to it, you just don’t.

True introverts may feel like they wish they wanted to get dolled up and mingle over cocktails and loud music on a Friday night, but what they really want to do is stay home with a book and pajamas, power off their phone and read until their quiet little heart’s content.  Can I get an Amen from all the introverts?

As this book goes on to point out, “…relinquishing my fantasies of what I wished I found fun allowed me more room to do the things that I did find fun.”

Being so struck by this notion of real vs. illusory desires, I couldn’t help but make my own list.  Without much thought and totally off the cuff, this is what I came up with:

Things I Wish I Wanted to Do:

*Work out more

*Not eat cookies for breakfast

*Play complex family board games (my in-laws are way into games and it’s freeing to admit I could spend the rest of my life mastering Scrabble)

*Chaotic playdates combining two or more of the following: toddlers, junk food, bouncy house, water parks or long car rides

*Camp (as in, outdoors, devoid of proper toilets, with the possibility of bear attacks)

*Go to a grad school (I must face the fact that a few proud extra letters after my name does not a happy homework-haver make)

*Have a third baby (our second is six months old and we’ve hired an overnight nanny and professional sleep coach in recent weeks – this talk is tabled for now.).

*Spend time on my hair (all roads lead to dry shampoo)

*Seek out cool indie music (Top 40 ‘til I die)

*Read classic literature (see grad school reference above)

*Embrace early mornings (maybe this will be The Happiness Project: Age 60)

As I immediately scribbled into my journal upon completion of this hasty (yet pretty darn honest) list:

Wow – there’s such a freedom to just admitting – if only to myself – “I don’t actually want to do any of these things!”

What would you not do, if you knew you could not fail?

Maybe it’s worth cancelling some unwanted plans and sticking around to find out.  Gretchen Rubin would definitely give you a gold star for that.

 

(*featured image by Anne Taintor*)

Welcome, Jude!

Heleyna Holmes Photography-00062

I’m really, really tired as I write this.

Alas, after many attempts at cobbling this together in countless small shifts at the keyboard over many caffeinated weeks – I’ve actually completed a writing assignment! (self-imposed, but nonetheless…). I now present you with a sleep-deprived, sugar-buzzed account of our first weeks with Baby Jude, beginning with his entrance into the world…

***

I was 39 weeks and 4 days pregnant… 3 days shy of our due date. I was SO ready to meet our second baby boy and for Aaron and me to start our journey as parents of two. I had been pregnant the entire calendar year, up until late September. It had felt like a loooonnng, loooonnng pregnancy – more challenging than my first with the added responsibility of chasing after a toddler while I waddled through my days, heavy, sore and slow. The last few weeks were tough and I was really, really ready to go into labor! I had been induced with Anderson so had never experienced going into labor spontaneously. There were days I thought it was never going to happen… that this baby was never going to come out on his own!

IMG_6767

Enter: Old Wives Tales.

I had heard stories of people who swear (among many other things, like jalapeno lemonade, and jumping on trampolines) that a good brisk walk launched them into labor. I’m always skeptical of these “It worked for me!” claims, but feeling exceptionally motivated that pre-due date Saturday morning, I thought to myself, “it couldn’t hurt!” and Aaron and I set out to tackle the hilly sidewalks of our neighborhood. About a half hour into our walk, it was clear something was happening – I was pretty sure I was actually having true labor contractions! By the time I got home I was on my couch timing them at 5 minutes apart, and the rest is history…

Aaron and I checked into hospital triage like we were moving in – with overnight bags, slippers and pillows in hand. Though contractions were still getting stronger, my body still wasn’t far enough along to be admitted. I was so disappointed and couldn’t imagine having to return home and wait it out… The doctor told us to try walking the hospital halls for two hours to trigger stronger contractions and more labor progression. Boy did that do the trick! Two hours later after enduring staggering, much stronger contractions everywhere imaginable (the elevator, the bathroom, the cafeteria, the street corner…) to what I’m sure were either concerned or confused audiences, we were given the green light for admission to our birthing suite – sweet indeed!! I burst into tears of relief at this news and exclaimed, “Praise the Lord!” I would have joined a gospel choir at that moment had a sign-up sheet presented itself. I was THAT happy. This baby was officially on his way.

A few short hours later and after a lightning quick delivery (thankful what they say about second children being quicker was very true in my case!) Jude Emerson Morris emerged at 9:50 p.m. a big and healthy boy, weighing in at a hunky 10 pounds, 2 ounces!

IMG_6921

*A quick note about his name:  As you know, we struggle/borderline obsess with deciding on names.  I wish I had some story about the magical moment we decided on this name, or some amazing significance it has played in our life, but I don’t.  I think Aaron suggested it, possibly over breakfast, sometime in the last month of pregnancy.  I honestly don’t remember. We liked that is was rare, yet rooted in some history (Bible book, Beatles song), and short to Anderson’s long.  Emerson is a main street in the part of Seattle where we live, and the street Aaron lived on in college, when he first moved to Seattle.  We actually went to the hospital with two names:  Emmett Blaine and Jude Emerson.  We had been leaning toward Jude, and our British nurse helped push it over the edge.

Proud papa.

IMG_6908

 

He was placed on my chest right away – so soft and warm, his skin was like butter and radiated heat. We spent another day and night in the hospital, and then we were sent home, to start real life as a family of four…

IMG_7033

 

^^This was our first outing as a family of four, to our niece Margot’s birthday dinner.  This felt like a huge accomplishment at the time!

Heleyna Holmes Photography-00205

^^This was one of the two times I’ve worn my hair in something other than an unwashed bun.

***

And now we’re home! And the highs and the lows and the lessons and the learning curves and God’s mercy….they are all new every morning. EVERY morning…

I try to keep a sense of humor about it all. When Jude pukes down my shirt during a particularly silent portion of a church service (yep, this happened), I may think to myself, “Maybe he wishes we were Catholic?” When he cries incessantly through extra innings of the final game of the World Series, I’ll say, “Must be a Mets fan?”

Anderson has found his sense of humor with Jude as well, while learning babies can double as human canvases:

IMG_7381

But humor aside, there are parts of raising a newborn that are just undeniably HARD. Oh the sleep deprivation…it’s so real. No matter how many books you read or preparation you try to do or kids you have, I don’t think it will ever feel natural to be yanked awake countless times throughout the night, sometimes for hours at a time. But you just do what you have to do and make it through, one day and one night at a time… As I write this Jude is eight weeks old, and I don’t think there have been more than five nights since he’s been born that I’ve scrapped together much more than six total hours of sleep. On a particularly torturous night when Aaron and I were up for hours and hours through endless cycles of feeding, crying, burping…feeding, crying, burping… I described the experience like this:

“Waking up almost every hour most of the night to a screaming baby is kind of like…..taking a long confusing cab ride through deep headache-inducing potholes with death metal blaring on the speakers, only to be thrown out of the car while it’s still moving. And the driver is surprisingly commanding though he speaks no English and is only 20″ tall…”

It’s hard you guys. The nights are soooo crazy sometimes. But you get up, you get coffee and you get through it. One of the silver linings as I learn to juggle caring for two kids, is I’m truly so much BUSIER, that the days fill up and fly by and I simply don’t have the time to sit around dwelling on how tired I am or should be. So, in a way, the busy-ness has been a blessing. Its sink or swim and you just have to keep on swimming.

So there’s that.

It’s interesting – in some ways having a second child, so far, is all I expected it to be – overwhelming and exhausting, but rewarding, super chaotic at times, but so sweet seeing siblings interact (the boys’ initial meeting was indescribably precious…).

IMG_6955

 

^^Anderson fawning over his brother the day they met.  He still does this daily.

IMG_7157

It is all those things people told me it would be, but at the same time, nothing could truly prepare me for my own unique experience I’m having. And sometimes I feel like no one else could totally understand it – but maybe everyone feels that way about their own particular lot in life?

IMG_7336

^^Jude has THE funniest pouty little fish lips.  We love them.

I see Anderson differently now as he’s growing so much, both independently and within the new dynamics of our household. So much newness with him alone – he is suddenly enormous! (at least compared to Jude…), he is defiant and opinionated and can make me want to pull my hair out when he simply Will. Not. Listen. (hello, age 2½!). But he still has his sweet moments and it’s all so confusing – is he still my sweet baby, or 2 going on 12?? So he’s different, and the way I see babies is different. I’m more confident in my parenting abilities this time around, which is a plus, but also don’t have the luxury to just sit around and bask in that confidence, because I’m so BUSY! The bonding and connecting with Jude comes more in bits and pieces throughout the day when I’m not trying to entertain a toddler or make dinner or take the world’s fastest shower (I think I’ve properly dried and styled my hair twice in the last two months…).

IMG_7096

^^A typical “work day” for me.  At least my bosses allow for a pretty lax dress code…

I don’t think I could have quite imagined how vastly different my entire life feels from the life I had two months ago. It has taken me MANY attempts to sit down and finish this blog entry. Free time is so precious and hard to come by with a toddler that will get into anything and everything, and a baby who just wants to be held, held and held some more (dirty dishes, be damned).

So that’s where I’m at. I’m tired and tested, but I’m also really proud of myself. I’m doing a hard thing every day and it’s given me perspective and grace for myself, and for every parent who does this work of raising children. And if it wasn’t hard at least some of the time, it wouldn’t be rewarding, right?

I could write an entire book called “I don’t know how single parents do it.” Earlier this month I was sick with a nasty head cold for exactly as many days as Aaron was out of town, waking up almost every two hours at night to a baby making his needs LOUDLY known. Thankful I’ve had support to pitch in and help me – I think I’d barely be standing if I had to do this completely alone. So true how they say it takes a village… I’m so thankful for mine!

And the journey continues…one cab ride at a time.

IMG_7321

 

**photo credit for some photos: heleyna holmes photography

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

While You’re Still My Baby…

DSC00929

I remember it like it was yesterday. It was a Tuesday afternoon when I was admitted to the hospital to begin the last leg of the long journey to your birth. Giddy with anticipation, in near disbelief I was finally going to meet YOU – I didn’t sleep a wink all night. The next morning, the long and winding road of pregnancy was over. YOU were in my arms.  AMAZING!

I would never be the same again.

IMAG0420

Anderson, you’ve been my baby for the last two and a half years. The only baby I’ve ever raised, and the one who will always get full credit for making me a mom – the proudest title I’ll ever wear. You’re the one I’ll compare any future babies with. How could I not? Your sleep patterns, how soon you rolled and crawled and walked, your laugh, your cry, your way with words…it’s the only ‘normal’ I’ve ever known.

DSC_5215e

DSC_5270e

If you were the only child I ever had, surely I have already been blessed far beyond what I deserve. That I get to experience the magic of brand new life again, all those “firsts” through a brand new set of eyes, and give you the gift of a brother to grow up with, is an extravagant gift.

Your little brother will be here in our home and in our arms, in just a matter of days. I am SO excited for us all to meet him and smother him in love. But before we do, I just wanted to pause and pay tribute to YOU.

YOU are still the baby of this family, for however many more hours or days that may be. YOU are an amazing boy, with a heart of gold, a razor sharp mind, a joyful sense of humor, and an infectious zeal for life.

first christmas

300You remind me to greet each day with excitement, and end it with gratitude. To see the possibilities in a box of blocks, the joy of running with nowhere to be, the peace that comes with going with the flow and trusting your instincts.

We’ve taught each other so much.

I’ve spent the last weeks putting together your baby book, tearfully re-watching video of your first cries and first bath, washing and folding tiny clothing that used to be yours. The fact that I even have time to write all this right now is due only to you being at PRESCHOOL, for exactly 52 more minutes.  I still can’t believe it, and am so proud of how you’ve grown.

IMG_0282

Thank you for making me a mom, for making your dad a dad, and for teaching us more than we could teach you. I can’t wait to see the incredible big brother you are going to be. Even though you won’t be the littlest around here for much longer…you’ll always be my baby. When I go to pick you up soon, and you run out to greet me with that big smile, your art project of the day proudly flapping in the breeze, I’ll remember that.

I love you Anderson, and I will always treasure these years of you and me.

IMAG0782-1

Slodge Podge

The last week or so I’ve more or less been running on fumes. Anything I’ve posted online definitely has not included my face, house, laundry pile, or choice of clothing in which I’ve been lounging around the house. Not sleeping well due to a combo of pregnancy aches and pains and a high-maintenance dog, begging my husband to take the morning toddler shift so I can scrap together a few extra zzzz’s, and living in his t-shirts (husband’s, not toddler’s – do I look like Bethenny Frankel?) – have been the common threads of this last week. I’m not looking for sympathy, as I know we all have days/weeks/seasons where we feel like we are “slodging through life.” Like our feet our constantly stuck in the mud and we just can’t find that light and easy pace we had the week before. Just keeping it real, and writing….which has happened like twice this year I think, but that could be overestimating.

Early today my sweet neighbor emailed and asked if Anderson and I would like to come over for a visit this morning or this afternoon. I thought to myself: “There is not a remote possibility I will be showered, out of my husband’s XL graphic tee and even remotely presentable to anyone outside my home until at least the mid-afternoon hours.” I said: “Later this afternoon is probably best for us.” No need to scare the woman.

On his way out the door this morning when Aaron asked me and my son, who was at the time very evenly alternating between bursting into PMS-like tears and exclaiming, “All done crying!” with a tear-streaked, semi-creepy smile on his face, what we were doing today, I said, “Surviving.” He patted me on the head like a lost puppy and told me to enjoy surviving, or good luck, or something like that. I can’t remember and/or didn’t really hear him at the time because I hadn’t had coffee yet.

On days like this, perspective is our friend. I may have almost thrown up from record-disgusting diapers, and I’m starting to stick to my clothing (OK, my husband’s clothing), I need to shower so bad – BUT –would you believe I still polished our stainless steel appliances, taught Anderson to ride a balance bike (he kept exclaiming, “I’m riding a bike! I’m riding a bike!” It was so cute I almost felt human again.), AND served both of us warm food today? I know. Please excuse me while I go find that gold star….the first place I’m looking is the shower.

PS – In addition, have I mentioned we’ve reverted to blow-outs this week? If you don’t know what this is, bless you. If you do, sorry for the TMI. But seriously, it’s like Anderson’s 6 months old again and I’ve actually lost count of how many pairs of shorts, blankets, sheets and sleep sacks I’ve had to shower with shout this week like I’ve been fighting wildfires. I guess he’s just doing his part to grease my wheels for baby #2.

PPS – Here’s a cute pic of Anderson on his bike AFTER I cleaned up approximately 700 toys…. total failure on my part.  This blog post obviously merits a “before” pic.  I would say use your imagination, but I know most of you have been there, and don’t have to.  🙂

IMG_6602

“We Did That So Perfectly,” Said No Parent Ever

 IMG_4425

I remember it clearly. I was in the last stretch of pregnancy, feeling pretty prepared for our little guy’s arrival. I had taken all the classes at the hospital, built the crib and stocked the nursery, and was all but twiddling my thumbs as I read books and watched movies “for fun” – something I had been told I should really take advantage of before finishing a film at home became akin to passing a law through congress – so long and drawn out and diverted by tangents that the whole point is forgotten by the time the credits roll.

So I was feeling pretty ready for this baby to arrive and to get this party started (Oh, if I only knew how I’d come to mock that thumb twiddling), when I realized – we don’t have a thing. You know, a schedule-y, routine-y, “I will religiously follow this book or that blog or this pediatrician’s methods” THING. I didn’t have a child-rearing, sleep-training, milk-producing Bible, and suddenly – when I would talk to other parents I knew who did – a wave of “how could I have missed this?” insecurity washed over me.

One particular parent who comes to mind is a neighbor I like and respect, who praised the Baby Wise method of parenting. It includes a book that’s sold millions of copies, a blog fervent followers appear to read daily, a movement of parents and pediatricians who passionately oppose its methods, and a whole new language that the unindoctrinated must learn (PDF is no longer a file you save on your computer, but parent-directed feeding, and Eat, Play, Sleep is NOT a sequel to a Julia Roberts movie).

“Aaron!” my third trimester self said, semi-panicked, to my husband one still winter afternoon, “Has it occurred to you we don’t have a thing? Like, a schedule for the baby? I mean, what are we doing and how are we going to know when and how much our baby needs to do important things, like eat and sleep? What is OUR PLAN???”

A few deep breaths and blank stares from my husband later, I did what I usually do to re-center myself when this whole parenting thing starts to feel like a contest – remind myself that parents have been doing this for thousands of years without books or blogs or PDFs of either variety.

I will be my baby’s mother.

I will get to know his needs.

I will be OK.

As you may guess, I never did catch on to the Baby Wise method. I spent a few minutes skimming my neighbor’s copy of the book once, and tried Eat, Play, Sleep due to an open mind and love for Elizabeth Gilbert. But in the end, I realized my baby was just fine – his needs were being more than met – and trying to force a popular bestselling “infant management” program (Wikipedia’s term, not mine) was – for us – like trying to fix something that wasn’t broken. I gave myself the grace to truly trust that as long as parents are within the parameters of lovingly sustaining their child’s basic eating and sleeping needs, there is no one right way to parent.

Now of course this story is just one of a bazillion examples of the ways we may feel pressured, left out, or judged in our society as parents striving to be educated yet flexible, “a natural at it” while sometimes scared as hell, present yet always planning the next naptime, return from maternity leave or college fund.

I’ve learned to trust that, for me, it’s OK if my child hangs out with us while we watch football (he’s usually way more interested in the books in his lap, anyway), even though other parents cringe at the thought of even a passing glance of “screen time.” It’s OK if my son starts preschool at age 2, or age 5. And that baby food maker I never got around to using (sincere apologies to my mother-in-law — I will use it with the next baby)? Think of all the extra time I got back by simply clicking the “add to cart” button on Amazon Fresh instead.

The reason I am so passionate about leading PEPS groups is because I want to encourage other parents to trust themselves. Don’t let yourself be bullied by a book, or intoxicated by a trend, at the expense of being the exact parent your baby needs.

There is no perfect. There is no magic wand. There is no fool-proof guide book for baby-raising and if there were you’d go broke buying the next edition and the newest revision tomorrow and the next day, and the next.

Your gut feelings exist for a reason.

I’m certainly not against books, and I’m happy for whatever works for you, but I am against anything that makes good, well-meaning parents feel bad – whether it’s an unhealthy addiction to Pinterest, or the woman in Starbucks who told me on a particularly rainy day that “You know, they make rain covers for the BOB stroller” and “Really, you should get one.” She actually repeated “You should get one” as if the existing massive stroller canopy covering all but a few inches of my child’s blanketed legs would surely lead to immediate pneumonia.

But I digress and, as usual, I’m over my word count. Be kind to yourself and savor those books and blogs and DIY projects in responsible doses, like a good glass of wine. And if you find yourself putting down Eat, Play, Sleep in favor of Eat, Pray, Love – you won’t find any judgment here.

**Originally published on the PEPS (Program for Early Parent Support) blog, Highs and Lows