t h i r t y

During the very early hours of the day I turned 30 my ears were greeted with the sounds my baby stirring in her crib on the far side of the room. I got up and stumbled through the darkness to scoop her up and bring her back to bed to nurse. The best birthday gift everyone could give me right now would be a stretch of sleep longer than three hours. But with a baby cutting four teeth at once, that was a lot to hope for.  A streetlamp on our block shed just enough light for me to make out her features in the darkness, wispy hair, long lashes, a little button nose, and the chubbiest cheeks you every saw. My body ached for sleep, but I still couldn't help but smile as a little hand reached out and wrapped around my index finger. I know all too well that nothing in life is guaranteed, not another child, not even another day. So I stuffed my tiredness down, whispered "happy birthday to me," and decided to enjoy this early morning snuggle.

A couple hours later we could hear our toddler coughing in the other room. He'd had a cold the last couple days and it always seems to get worse when he's lying down. My husband was just getting up to make sure he had enough water when I heard the unmistakable sound of a child throwing up. Then we were both up, one of us comforting Johnny, and the other one changing the sheets on his bed. "So, it's going to be one of these night," I thought to myself. But it was impossible to feel mad when my three year old, who normally doesn't have to time of day to sit and cuddle with his mama, was sitting on my lap with his arm around my neck and his head against my chest. Some of the most rewarding moments of motherhood for me have been when being with mom is the only thing that comforts my babies.

Growing up we had a tradition in my family of birthday breakfast in bed. We all knew it was coming, but would stay in bed and pretend to sleep until the rest of the family came marching in with a breakfast tray, singing the birthday song. Alex and I have adopted that tradition in our own little family. But it's getting harder to execute with small children. Johnny was having such a rough night that Alex ended up sleeping in his bed with him. Trixie was a up once more during the night, and then up for good at 6:30. When Alex realized Trixie and I were awake he tried to convince me to go back to bed so he could "surprise" me with breakfast, but at that point it seemed better to just stay up.  So I wrestled two babies through two diaper changes while Alex made coffee and put together a tray of the international cookies from Whole Foods. My favorite. We had a nice little breakfast picnic on the playroom floor. Coffee that I didn't have to make always tastes better.

My parents came over to watch the kids so Alex and I could go out for dinner. We slid into a plush corner booth in a very hip lounge that my very hip younger sister recommended.  After the server had brought us our cocktails Alex leaned back and said, "It's nice to be out without kids." I agreed. I also observed that our server did not card us. When Alex and I were dating and in our early 20's we always took it as a small triumph when that happened. I was about to have a similar reaction just out of habit when I noticed her carding the much younger looking couple at the table next to us.

I'm 30. And I guess I look it.

But in all actuality, I'm really ok with being 30. Sure, the baby weight is not coming off as easily the second time around, and I may be a dress size or two larger than when I was in college. But my body has grown and birthed two humans. It's ok with me that it looks like it's done that. There are a few more life skills I think I should possess by now, like how to file our taxes, and deal with insurance stuff, and make a spread sheet. I guess that's why God gave me Alex. (Wink.) But I'm proud of the other things I've accomplished in 30 years. Staying home with my kids is challenging, but I chose it and there's nothing else I'd rather be doing. I'm happy with where I'm at and I feel comfortable in my own skin. Yup, even the looser skin.

As nice as it was to go out with Alex and have an uninterrupted meal, it was even nicer to come home to our house with our sleeping babies in it and sneak into their rooms to plant little kisses on their little heads. It's a good life, even though I know in a couple hours one, or both of them, will wake up needing me.

Summer Rest

There's not a lot going on right now. For the first time in 7 years I am not teaching summer piano lessons. (Except when I took maternity leave the summer Johnny was born.) I had 17 students this year, which only worked out to about 10 hours a week of active teaching, but it felt like more.  On days that I teach I need to keep the first floor of my house tidy, which is almost a losing battle with Johnny around. I also need to have dinner ready early those days, because I teach right up to, and after the dinner hour. That means I need to make a strategic meal plan for the week of things I can put in the crock-pot, or assemble in the morning and then put in the oven while I'm teaching. It doesn't sound like much, but considering how easily an hour can get swallowed up by just breastfeeding and then changing a couple of diapers, staying organized enough to keep my studio running consumed a pretty large amount of time and head space each week.

This past year has been stressful. Alex's school has been very stressful for him, and for me. His successes and failures are my successes and failures.  If he does well on a test that means I've done my job of running our home and giving him the space and time he needs to learn his material well. Conversely, if he does poorly I feel like it's my fault for distracting him too much. Alex is the one who goes to class each day, but really, we're both in grad school. 

Getting used to having two kids has been stressful. Johnny and I had worked out  pretty good groove before Trixie was born, and when she came we had to start over. She is delightful, but it's still been an adjustment. Although not nearly as hard of an adjustment as when Johnny was born.

Everything that happened with Johnny's hearing this winter became very stressful very quickly. Johnny's hearing and speech development had never been of much concern to me when he was a baby. His GI stuff was much scarier. I always kind of felt like the hearing thing would just work itself out. Then for the first time this winter he seemed behind, like he was falling through the cracks, and we weren't doing enough for him. To realize he had not been hearing was scary, and I felt like we had failed him.

All these things, combined with the sleep deprivation that comes with having a baby, and all the other little things that come up in life were piling up in my brain and I was beginning to feel serious burn out. I knew something needed to go, and it couldn't be my kids, or PA school. The only thing left to go was piano lessons. So they went. (In case any of my student's parents are reading, don't worry, I'm still planning on teaching again in the fall.)

It was definitely the right thing to do. My days aren't really more peaceful. We still manage to somehow be really busy. But there isn't anything hanging over my head. Sometimes I get the feeling like I should be doing something, cleaning a bathroom, or answering an email, but when I stop and search my brain there's really nothing I need to be doing outside of caring for my family. And now that that's the only thing I need to do, doing it is a lot more enjoyable.

I have some things I'd like to do this summer. I'd like to stay on top of the weeds in the garden this year. I'd like to work on my sewing and add some things to my etsy shop. There's a couple rooms in our house that I'd like to paint. But if I don't get to any of those things, it won't matter at all.

This is a picture of my kids literally destroying my to-do lists. I love being productive and having to show something for my time, so this is kind of a powerful image for me. No to-do lists. Just family, and space, and rest. And  a messier living room.

Mom Confession Vol. 6: We Must Be crazy

I looked on helplessly as my 22-month old tore each and every book and DVD off the shelf and threw them to the floor, too tired and nauseous to rise from my place on the couch to intervene. Then I looked down at my rapidly expanding belly and I thought, we must be crazy! 

I am all for babies and children and large families, but right now I am having a moment where I completely understand why some people just want one.  Or maybe two, a boy and a girl would be nice. I love being a mom, but it is really hard! And come October, I'll be a mom of not just one, but two!

We must be crazy! 

The last two months of morning sickness (who made up that name anyway? What a misnomer. More like all day, all night sickness.) and extreme fatigue have left me feeling like motherhood is a thankless job that demands all and gives nothing back. I've sacrificed my usual alone time during Johnny's nap to nap myself. Not having that time for self care or creative expression is beginning to take its toll. I'm crabby, mad at my husband for all the time he gets to spend with grown-ups at work, impatient with Johnny when he's just being a toddler, and overall feeling maxed out. 

Remind me why I am doing this again?

It's easy to say that all the sweet moments make up for all the hard ones.  All the good cuddles, and and sweet sloppy kisses, and first steps and first words make all this hard work worth it. As awesome as all those things are, they're also kind of superficial. I think being a mother has to mean more than that.

I've been reading Everyday Sacrament: The Messy Grace of Parenting by fellow blogger Laura Kelly Fanucci, and apart from it being packed with beautiful word of wisdom, every time I open it up I feel like someone is saying to me, "I know how you feel, and it's ok." And then I feel like someone is saying, "this is holy work we are doing. It's hard, but it's holy."

I am learning more about Christ and becoming more like Him because I am a mother. I knew this in a head knowledge kind of way. But it didn't really strike my heart until I read this the other night:

You are a whisper of a whirl curled up deep in my belly. The hormonal soup
in which you swim makes me nauseous at all hours of the day. I choke down
crackers when I wake, throw up in the sink before breakfast, and pull over at
gas stations to get sick on the drive to work. I collapse on the couch before 
sunset most evenings, too tired to drag myself to bed. 

I am three months. pregnant. This is my body, given for you.  

When I feel like I have nothing more to give, all of sudden my giving feels like it has some purpose. Being a mother is making me more like Christ. I can feel the wood of the cross. I can appreciate His life poured out to give me life.

Apart from the ways I am being made holier through motherhood, being a mother is worth it because of children themselves. Children have intrinsic value because they, like all of us, are created in the image and likeness of God. Even though they may make my life harder, and put a damper on some fun I might otherwise be having, children matter. My cousin Bethany wrote a great post on this very subject and I went back and read it again this week, because, well, I needed it. 

Then, on top of all of this, there's this amazing thing of being allowed to participate in the miracle of creation. When I really stop and consider what's going on inside of me it just seems crazy. A person is growing inside me. It's so weird and mysterious and divine.

So maybe we are a little bit crazy, but at least I know why I am doing this. That's what makes it all worth it. 

// M O M C O N F E S S I O N V O L 5 :t h e m o n d a y e d i t i o n //

It's just been one of those days.

You know, the kind where you stayed up too late the night before and didn't sleep well because the baby tossed and turned and nursed all night. 

The kind where it's super humid out, and you haven't gotten the AC units out of the attic yet so you're sticky and slow and lethargic. 

It's the kind of day where the baby is crabby because he took a poor morning nap, so you try to do something fun with him in the afternoon to distract him from his crabbiness. And after 45 minutes of setting up his water table outside only to have him play with it for 5 minutes before melting down into a puddle of tiredness you get everything inside, get the baby upstairs to bed, nurse him, get very sleepy yourself, think "this will be good, now we can both take a little rest", after 10 minutes of nursing the baby is completely revived and happy and ready to go again. 

The kind of day where hubby had to get up really early for work and won't be home until at least 7:00 and it's just not working to be in the house anymore so you decide to pack up the baby and go get some frozen yogurt. You change his diaper (so many poopy diapers today) get the diaper bag packed, get onto the porch, lock the door knob, pull the door shut and 1/8 of a second later realize you have locked your house key in the house. You took it off your key chain to leave it for the babysitter. You never put it back on.  You can picture exactly where it sits on the bookshelf....

Lucky for you, you do have your car key and can still go get frozen yogurt and can kill time in your favorite store, where they are having a sale, so you impulse-buy this scarf.....

and these Babiators for the baby.....

and that, along with the fro-yo, helps you feel a little bit better.

Yeah, it's been one of those days.

But the hubby did eventually get home with the house key, and we had caprese for dinner (one of my very favorites) And the upside to having bad naps during the day is that Johnny was asleep by 8:00, which is the earliest he's gone to bed in a couple of weeks. So I can blog while it's still light out, keep the laundry going and (hopefully) be asleep by 10:00!

No matter how draining the day is, my frustrations and stony-heartedness always melt into warm, fleshy, wildly beating anthems of love at the sight of my sleeping babe. And although this time that I have to myself while he sleeps in his crib is so refreshing and so necessary, I secretly look forward to that time around 2:00 or 3:00 in the morning when he joins us in our bed and I get the snuggle with him, and get kicked in the bladder by him, until the morning comes.

// M O M C O N F E S S I O N V O L 3 //

After I posted my last mom confession I received so much encouragement that I was so normal for feeling frustrated at times. And also encouragement to take a break whenever I could get one, and to not feel guilty for wanting and taking a little "me time". I've realized that I do feel guilty when I take time to myself, or when I go out without Johnny, because he's literally such a big part of me. To almost quote Jim Gaffigan: I grew him in my body, I delivered him with my body and I feed him with my body. For the 9 months he was inside me he relied on me 100% for everything, and for the 9 months he's been out here it's been almost the same story. I'm sure some of the "guilt" I feel is just hormones, but I think that it's a real thing for moms to feel like they can't or shouldn't leave their babies.

(Just a little aside: I don't want to give the impression that I want to get away from Johnny.  I like being with him. A lot. I knew what I was signing up for when I became pregnant and being a mom is the best job that I have had to date.)

But Johnny is getting bigger now, and though he still refuses to take a bottle he does really well with Alex. So I've decided I need to do a little self-care once a week to stay fresh and rested. It's like when you fly on a plane and the flight attendants are telling you what to do if the cabin loses pressure and the oxygen masks come shooting out. You get your own mask securely in place before you go help someone else. You need to breath, or you're no good to anyone. I need to breath, to be a better mom and a better wife. 

So once a week I am going to do something on my own. Last week it was as simple as going in a different room, putting on head phones, and knitting uninterrupted for one hour. This week my self-care took the form of meeting a friend at the Liffey for a big ginger. A little self care can go a long way. When I am done I always feel more than ready to meet the needs of my family.

What about you, other mamas out there? What do you do to stay fresh and sane so that you can continue to be a great mother? I'd love to hear!

//M O M C O N F E S S I O N V O L 2 //

Friday night: I am currently holed up in the bedroom with ice cream, a glass of wine, my knitting, and this song. I have finally taken Alex up on his offer to be in charge of Johnny so I can have some "alone time." It's 9:45 pm and the little man is showing no signs of giving up and going to sleep. And this is after a rotten night of sleep last night and only an hour and forty-five minutes of napping today. I thought babies needed sleep. Why doesn't mine sleep? I sleep almost the same amount of time he sleeps and I'm exhausted! 

My "alone time" was preceded by me stomping my feet and throwing diapers because Johnny had a diaper leak 30 minutes after getting a clean diaper AND fresh clean pajamas. Since Johnny's take-down procedure he has been pooping A-LOT. Which is good and awesome! And which they warned us would be the case for the first few weeks. But it's a lot of poopy diapers. Like, every hour I change a poopy diaper. And he has diaper rash,(we were also warned this would happen) so he cries through every diaper change. We also had a polar vortex this week followed by a snow emergency. Those things combined with getting back into my teaching routine, Alex in class again, and me not wanting to change a billion poopy diapers in public, Johnny and I have not left the house since Sunday. And that dirty diaper all over clean pajamas was the straw that broke this cooped up mama's back. 

So I am having "alone time".  I use scare quotes because my alone time isn't really alone time. I can hear Johnny down the hall squawking and fussing.  And if I can't hear him then I'm wondering why I can't hear him.  Is he ok? Is he sleeping? If he's sleeping he should be in bed with me. This is one of the strange and beautiful things about motherhood that I have discovered, at least for me. (Other moms can please tell me if they discovered this is true about them.) When I'm with my baby I get tired and need a break, but then when I'm not with my baby I feel anxious and just want to be with him again. I can't shut off being a mom to take a break. If Alex takes Johnny during the night (which is super nice of him) I can't fall asleep if I hear my baby crying in next room. I don't know if it's hormones, or a motherly instinct, or if it's just my naturally anxious personality. But there is no winning.

Anyway, I think the moral of this story is: polar vortex or not, don't stay inside for a whole week.

Honestly, how could I get frustrated with a face like that?

// M O M C O N F E S SI O N V O L 1 //

It's Monday and I'm ready to turn a new leaf.  I was not at my best the last couple of days and I'm anxious to make up for it.

If you have been following here you know that last week was a big one for us.  My child undergoing surgery, followed by four days in the very close quarters of our hospital room.  Then coming home and having a baby who, while possessing the super-fast-healing-powers of an infant, was still not his usual jolly self, and trying to discern if his fussiness was due to pain, or tiredness, or teething (yeah, that's going on too).  And trying to decide it if merits Tylenol, or the prescription pain meds we were given. Then trying to give him said medicine which he hates and very quickly learned to store up in his little chubby cheeks and then just when I think it's gone down spews it out all over his face and clothes, and then rubs his hands in it, then rubs his hands all over his head and anything else within reach, then we are all sticky and smell like fake strawberries.  And I don't know if was his medicine or something else but he has been staying up so late at night, 11:00, 11:30, midnight.  And I just want to go to sleep.

After all this build up I hit a low point Saturday night.  I was so tired.  Alex was studying, and I was trying to keep Johnny quiet and out of his way so that he could actually get something done. And Johnny was FUH-ssyyyy. He didn't want to nurse.  He didn't want to be put down. He screamed when I tried to give him his medicine then screamed some more when I wiped off his face because his spit all the medicine out.  I was stomping my feet and slamming doors and being sarcastic and complaining to Alex that Johnny was being "really annoying." And that's not fair.  Firstly, it does no good to be sarcastic and passive aggressive towards a baby because he's only a baby and it means nothing to him.  Secondly, he's not trying to be annoying, he's just trying to tell me he needs something, goodness knows what, but something.  And he had literally just had his butt split open 5 days earlier. So it really was not fair of me. The culmination was Alex taking Johnny down stairs and telling me to go to bed.

The next day I felt better after finally getting a good night's rest.  And it probably would have been a good morning if it wasn't for Shutterfly.  Yes, it's all their fault. You see, there was a sale, half off photo books, and I've been wanting to print out some of the thousands of pictures we've been taking of Johnny.   But the sale ended Sunday so I had to get it done.  Then I figured while I was placing an order I should get our Christmas cards figured out. And while I'm at it I should order some larger prints from our family portrait session that I'd like to frame and hang up or give as gifts. But I had to get it all done that day so I wouldn't have to pay multiple shipping fees. And I had to do it quickly because Alex needs the computer to do his homework.  So I would do it while Johnny was napping, but he only napped for 30 minutes. Then the internet was slow, and the computer kept freezing up, and I forgot to save my changes, and what was supposed to be a quick project took 5 hours during which the baby was fussy because he just wanted me to hold him and my husband got no studying done.  And when it was finally finished I felt gross from staying in my pajamas so long and drinking too much coffee and being mad at Shutterfly and the computer and everyone in my house. If you get a Christmas card from us this year you'd better appreciate it and hang it up on your refrigerator because much time, toil, and tears went into it.

I want to be a patient wife and mother and I don't like getting exasperated with my baby. I'm sure I'm not the only mama to do so, am I?  How do you have more patience, and more compassion, and love? Anyway, the evening was redeemed by a really good steak dinner and getting all caught up on Parks and Recreation. Johnny slept really well last night, and so did Alex and I.  And today is rainy and cloudy and a good day for sitting inside and holding my baby and making sure he gets all the love and cuddles he needs to feel all better. Today I will be better.


Here some of our family photos that went into the accursed Shutterfly oder. Enjoy!