My Maternity Must-Haves

Disclaimer: all Amazon links are affiliate. That means if you follow the link and
make a purchase, I get a small percentage of the sale at no additional cost to you. 

27 weeks of pregnancy down, 13 weeks to go. So basically an eternity. I really don't like being pregnant. Please don't misinterpret that statement. I'm wildly excited about this baby, I just wish someone would knock me out for 9 months and then I would wake up with a baby in my arms. But I guess that approach to pregnancy wouldn't really work for the rest of my family. So while there is no avoiding 9 months of sickness, fatigue, pain, heartburn, and crazy hormones, at least there are some things that can help make those 9 months more tolerable. Here of some of my favorite maternity items this time around.

1. This Black Pencil Skirt is super comfortable and looks super put together. Now that we've finally made it to warmer weather you can bet I will be wearing it nearly every day with a t-shirt.

2. Epsom Salts. I love these all the time, and I especially love them while pregnant. This pregnancy I've had some restless leg syndrome, which, if you've never had it, is So Annoying!! It's like the top half of my body wants to sleep and the bottom half of my body wants to run laps around the house. An epsom salts bath at the end of the day paired with a magnesium supplement has worked wonders for my sleep.

3. Maternity/Nursing shirt that covers my tush. Maternity jeans are so not my jam this time around. It's leggings (which I will get to in a moment) all day every day, and so long shirts are essential.

4. Pregnancy Pillow. Alex got me this pillow while I was pregnant with Trixie.  It' takes up half of the bed, but it makes sleeping with a giant tum so much more comfortable. I highly recommend it.

5. Maternity Spanx. For underneath dresses and skirts, because everyone can use a little help, right?

6. The best lip balm ever. I get intensely dry lips while during winter and while pregnant, so being  pregnant during the winter basically means I have two strips of sandpaper on my face. I first got this lip balm in an Ipsy bag. I love it so much I've restocked on Amazon twice so far.

7. Special Occasion Dress. Because there's usually at least one special occasion during a pregnancy. I wore this dress to a wedding we went to in New York this winter. It was so flattering, I loved wearing it. Just don't forget the maternity Spanx!

8. Belly Oil. I am so past the point of preventing stretch marks, which is the reason many people use belly oil. For me, it's all about comfort. Oil works so much better than lotion when it comes to soothing dry, itchy skin. And if I can prevent a few new stretch marks from popping up, that's ok too!

9. Good Maternity Leggings. Like I already mention, I just can't with the maternity jeans. So until it's warm enough to wear dresses everyday, you will find me in leggings. I've been on the hunt for a good pair of leggings that are thick, not see through at all, go over the belly, and look somewhat presentable. These are by far the best I've found. I've worn them almost everyday since January. I am wearing them as I type this blog post.

That's all for now friends! I hope this helps any fellow preggos out there. Tune in next time for my top pregnancy food cravings!

Just kidding.

I think.....

More Than One Way to Mom

I recently wrote about my decision to stop working and be a full time stay-at-home mom. While I liked my work, it was making family life really stressful. I felt like I was spread too thin, like everything was making me irritable, and that my family was just another item on my to-do list. I knew that quitting my job would help me be a better mom, and so I quit.

But my decision to quit my job has got me thinking about some things.

One is that I knew quitting my job would make me a better mom. That is, it would make me a better mom. Just me. Not everyone else.

I don’t think that all moms need to quit their jobs to be better moms. And I don’t think I am better than other moms for having quit my job. This is just what worked for me.

Some moms work, and it works for them. They love their jobs and getting to practice their professional skills. Working helps them feel balanced and that helps them be a better mom. I know that working moms don’t stop being moms when they drop their kids off at daycare in the morning. They’re still thinking about, worrying about, and loving their kids, even when they're not with them. They are in tune to the needs of their families and keep their households running, all while putting in a full days work outside of the home.

This was a balancing act I was not able to figure out, and my hat goes off to all the moms who do it every day.

Second, staying home full time with my kids is what I feel called to do, but that doesn’t mean that I love it all the time. My children are not little angelic beings and we don’t spend our days reading books under apples trees, or walking hand in hand in fields of flowers. My kids are naughty, they throw tantrums and make messes, and I yell a lot. Sometimes I wish I could go to work for a few hours each day - just to get a little break from them!

Being a stay-at-home mom is hard work, and it implies sacrifice. It can mean putting professional or academic goals on hold for the foreseeable future.  Or it can mean giving up a well loved job because the cost of childcare doesn’t make it worth it.

For me, the sacrifice is giving up the extra income my work brought in. It’s giving up some time each day that was something different from changing diapers and calming tantrums. It’s putting personal goals and dreams on the shelf because there’s just not enough time to pursue them right now. It’s giving up my body, in that I’m currently nursing a 20 month old who shows no sign of stopping. It’s giving up my privacy, as in, yup, there’s always someone with me in the bathroom. And it’s giving up control, because I can plan all I want, but those plans are usually thwarted by my beautiful babies.

Some days it's easy to make these sacrifices, and other days I need to remind myself that I chose this, it's what I feel called to. Every time that I slow down and take a deep breath I come to the same conclusion, I am honored to make these sacrifices, even though it's hard.

Finally, while it is a sacrifice to be a stay-at-home mom, I realize that choosing not to work is also a privilege. When I stopped working it meant giving up extra income. But it was just that, extra income. I’m not my family’s primary provider and we can get by without me working.

Some moms are their families’ primary providers, or significant contributors. They may wish they could stay home with their kids, but they can’t because their families’ depend on their income. They go to work day after day, maybe even to jobs they don't like. They do it because it's what their families needs them to do.

That is a type of sacrifice that I am not familiar with, but it’s one that I greatly admire. I may talk lightly about quitting my job, or even joke about being retired at age 30, but it is not lost on me that this is a privilege, one that I will try my hardest to live up to.

All of this was a very long way of saying there’s more than one way to mom.

It's ok if the way I mom looks different from the way you mom. Good moms come in all sorts of beautiful shapes and sizes. But at the heart of every variation there is a common thread; we are all showing up everyday, doing our best for our families.

Whether that’s packing lunches and doing school drop off, or clearing the breakfast dishes to make room for home-school lessons. Whether it’s punching in at work each morning, or keeping the home fires going with a baby strapped to our backs. We’re still the ones kissing foreheads and skinned knees, making dinner and giving baths, reading stories and tucking in. And then, with aching feet, or a sore back, or a fried brain, we’re getting ready to do it all over again tomorrow.

It’s a beautiful thing we do, and it’s beautiful, all the ways we do it.

oh this life

My clothes were clean when I put them on this morning. Now they have streaks of  Trixie's snot all over them. On the shoulder, the hip, the knee. I wish I could say that it was food.


It's snot.

Child snot.

Once she realized rubbing her nose on me yielded a result it became a game. Clearly she was winning.

I could go and change my clothes, but I don't think I will.

It's been one of those weeks. The kind where all the toys end up in the bathroom. I get out of the shower and step on Buzz Light year. I go to the bathroom in the middle of the night and kick a Matchbox car across the floor. At the end of the day I put all the toys back in their respective places, only to have them end up there again the next day. How does this happen?

I reached for my make up remover the other night because I thought I wasn't getting all of my mascara off. Nope. Just dark circles. Both kids have been sick and waking up more than usual during the night, and I'm tired. When I wake up in the morning I feel like I could have easily slept for six more hours.

It snowed this morning. Wonderful. I put the winter jackets and boots away 2 weeks ago.

Johnny has not been napping this week. He does alright at school, but turns into a pumpkin come dinner time. Literally everything makes him cry. He wants ketchup with his quesadillas, he wants an extra gummy vitamin, he doesn't want to sit in that chair, he wants to sit in this chair, he wants to watch Toy Story, he doesn't want to sit on the potty chair. And every time he starts crying Trixie starts crying because she is very sensitive to her brother's feelings. So we've been having lovely dinners, shouting to each other about our days over the din of crying children.

Oh this life. If I have any readers who don't have kids they're probably thinking, "why on earth would I ever want that? It sounds like a whole lot of yelling and counting the minutes until bedtime and then picking other peoples' boogers off your clothes."

But thankfully there's more to it than what I complain about.

Like when bedtime does finally come. Trixie falls asleep nursing with her warm little hand up the sleeve of my sweater. As I carry her across the room to her crib I look down and there in my arms is an entire human being, who depends on me for everything. Please God, don't let me fail her. 

Then I go to Johnny's room. He's already in bed but not yet asleep. I crawl under his covers and share his pillow with him. He pushes a couple trains across the surface of the mattress and lets me plant kisses on his forehead. I look into his eyes and I see the grace of God.

Parenting is hard, but there is so much grace to be found in it as well. Grace in loving my children more than I love myself. Grace in this tiny glimpse into the heart of God and seeing how great His love for His own children must be. Grace in knowing that even though I may fail today, I will have the chance to be a better mother tomorrow.

Oh this life. Full of weird, snot-covered graces, breaking my heart, melting away my selfishness, filling me with a desire to be better. Please God, let me be better, for them. 

This Is A Job

I've got a new approach to this whole Stay-At-Home Mom thing this year. Just for a point of reference, my old approach was to try to relax as much as possible, stay in my pajamas as long as possible, and try to do as much knitting as possible. But this kind of parenting was actually causing some problems. Like, when I actually needed to be getting ready my kids were always really crabby. Leaving me putting on my makeup to the tune of two screaming babies, which is not a peaceful experience.  Or when I was doing my enjoyable hobby I had this constant lurking feeling that I should be doing something else (probably because I was ignoring piles of unfolded laundry and saving dinner prep for the witching hour), making it hard to enjoy my enjoyable hobby.

So here's my new approach. I'm treating being a Stay-At-Home Mom like it's a job.  Because it actually is a job.

I've never felt embarrassed by the fact that I'm a stay-at-home mom. I've known for some time that this is what I want to be doing. I also feel no judgment toward moms who want to or need to work outside the home. But I do often feel frustrated that I "got nothing done" all day. That is, I got nothing done beside cooking three meals, keeping my family in clean clothes, cleaning the kitchen, twice, changing a host of diapers, grocery shopping, staying on top of appointments, bills, and budgets and, oh yeah, teaching about ten hours of piano lessons out of my home each week which I don't really talk that much about on here, but that's a job, too. And at the of the day when I crawl into bed my body is tired and my feet are sore from the full day of work I put in. So why do I feel like I got nothing done? Why does my life feel insignificant?

It feels insignificant because I've been treating it as insignificant.

I don't know if it was some subliminal messaging from the society I live in, or my own misconceptions, but somewhere along the road I started feeling like the things I do all day don't matter as much as the things other people do all day. And because I wasn't valuing the things I was doing, they started to seem tedious to me.

But when I really stop and think about it, there's isn't anything else I'd rather be doing. Well, except for maybe professional wine tasting. Or unless you could pay me a lot of money to knit while I watch The Newsroom. But in all seriousness, I'm really happy as a Stay-At-Home Mom. And even though my work is hidden from world and I don't receive a paycheck for it, it is real work that contributes to the well being of my family. So I'm going to treat it that way.

And this is how:

Get up. I'm setting an alarm and getting up when it goes off even if the kids are still sleeping.

Get ready. I'm getting myself ready for the day before Alex leaves the house, and then I don't need to worry about doing it later when kids are melting down for their naps.

Eat breakfast. A cup of coffee and a cookie doesn't count. Everyone does better when mama has some protein in the morning.

Make hay while the sun shines. Or rather, when the babies are happy. I'm using the morning hours when everyone is happiest to get my most pressing chores done. This is usually making sure I have dinner planned and maybe even getting it into the crock pot or oven, and doing one or two cleaning chores, like vacuuming, or a load of laundry, or emptying the dishwasher.

When I'm on, I'm on. If I were at a "real job" I wouldn't be trying to sneak in an episode of 30 Rock, or knit under my desk. (At least I don't think so. . . .) Instead of escaping to my hobbies whenever I can, I am present with my children, building train tracks, stacking blocks, and lots of nursing.

Nap time is me time. That sacred hour, that respite for the weary. When the babies are sleeping I bust out the chocolate and my knitting, or blogging, or whatever else I want to do. And because I've been on top of my chores earlier in the day, I can enjoy my break 100% guilt free.

Get out of the house. Alone. And grocery shopping doesn't count. Being a mom is 24/7 job. I'm always on the clock. But if I can get out of the house by myself once or twice a week, it's enough of a break to refresh and energize me. We're not very good at implementing this one yet. Ideally we'd have a set day and time each week that I would leave, but the craziness of Alex's school makes that a little difficult right now. But I'm trying to get out, and when I do, I really notice the difference it makes.

We're three weeks in and so far my new approach has been working really well. I feel good about the amount of stuff I get done each day. I feel like I am getting some breaks. I'm losing my temper less with my children. Some days are still hard, I don't always wake up as early as I should, or people don't always nap as long as I'd like. But at the end of the day when my body is tired and my feet are sore I take it as a sign that I put in a good day of sanctifying work. Because this is a job, a calling, a vocation. And it's making me a holier person.

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.

So This Happened Today.....

And I'm kind of a mess.

Johnny had his first day of school, much sooner than we originally thought he would. 

We've gone through a lot with Johnny's hearing this past year. First his speech was regressing, then we found out he had fluid in his ears and wasn't hearing anything.  Then he got tubes in his ears, and he started seeing a phenomenal new speech therapist. 

About a month after that Johnny had his hearing re-tested with a sedated ABR test. We learned that his hearing has gotten worse.  It's hard to describe how much worse, since it's certain frequencies he can't hear, and it's different in each ear. But categorically he went from having a mild/moderate hearing loss to a moderate/severe hearing loss. Of course the first question we had was, will his hearing continue to get worse? There's really no way to know, and we will just keep monitoring it. At this point his hearing aids are still able to compensate for his hearing loss. Theoretically he's hearing normally with his hearing aids. But if his hearing does get worse hearing aids may not be able to make up all of the difference and then he would be a candidate for cochlear implants. 

The results of the hearing test made me sad for my boy, and anxious about his future. I know as a parent you can't protect your child from everything. Not everything in our children's lives can be, or should be easy. It's good to struggle and face adversity because that is how you grow and develop resiliency and character. But Johnny has already been through so much. He already has to work harder than most kids his age. I know there will be hard things in his life, I just really don't want expressing himself and communicating with others to be some of those hard things. 

Two days after we got the new diagnosis for Johnny's hearing loss we visited a oral pre-school for deaf and hard of hearing children. And it was amazing. A few kids had hearing aids, but the majority had cochlear implants (so that means they are completely deaf) and they were talking like there was no hearing loss whatsoever. They were talking like they weren't limited by their hearing loss, and that's what we want for Johnny.

So we started the enrollment process, applied for financial aid, and waited for the school to let us know when he could start. I knew it was coming, but when we got the email with his start date I still got kind of sad. He's only going three days a week, and it's only for half days, but he's my first baby and he's never been away from me.  

Even though he drives me a little bit crazy most days, I'm not quite ready to have him away. I like our time at home, the freedom to stay in our jammies all day, or go see friends whenever we want. It dawned on me this morning that, for the most part, that phase of motherhood is over for me. Starting now I will have kids in school for, oh I don't know, the next 20 years! Or more! I will be in my 50's when I'm done having kids in school! I kind of don't want to go there right now. 

Right now there is just this first day. Our first morning scramble, our first time getting his backpack ready, our first time walking him into his class room. I cried a little as I watched him settle in with all the cool toys. Then he cried a little when we said goodbye to him. The teachers assured us that it will get easier and he'll love it in no time. I know they're right, but I was still so relieved when one of the speech therapists texted me a picture of Johnny playing with some trains. And even more relieved when he was back home and I could say, we made it.  

Right now we will adjust to our new routine of  doing this three days a week. And I will cherish those two days a week I'm not taking Johnny to school, when we can stay home in our jammies and snuggle. Yes, right now there will be lots of snuggles.

the women i pray for

I have a list. It's a list of names. Other mothers that I pray for.

I update my list every month, or as the need arises. New names get added, other names move to different categories.

My list has categories.

Pregnant women, that's one category.

But not just pregnant women. Women pregnant for the first time. Women pregnant for the seventh time. Women who continue to work and run errands and exercise as if nothing has changed, and women who spend 9 months curled up on their couches and vomiting into their toilets. Women who wanted to be pregnant, desired it, dreamed of it, prayed for it for months, sometimes years. And woman for whom a new life is an unexpected shock, joy is clouded by fear and stress, another mouth to feed, another body to cloth. Grace and peace and good health, O Lord.

The babies keep coming, the months tick by, and the names in this category come and go.

Then there are women who want to be pregnant, but aren't. Women who long to hold a baby of their own for the first time, and women who's babies are grown, and long for one more. Please God, just one more. Women who are in and out of doctors appointments, trying different diets, supplements, and medications, and each month brings another disappointment.

This category, unfortunately, doesn't change as much.

There are other categories besides these: working moms and stay at home moms. Moms who's husbands travel a lot, or are in school, like mine, and do a lot of solo parenting, and single moms who bear the weight of parenting alone. There are moms finishing school, moms attempting to home school. There are moms sitting with their children in doctors offices and therapy appointments, turning their worlds upside down for a child with special needs or health complications. And there are moms suffering through their own poor health, each day they rise above it and care for their families. Lord, hear our prayer.

There is a category for when the unthinkable happens; mothers holding their children's hands in hospital rooms. feeling the helplessness that comes with watching a child suffer. Lord, show us your mercy and love. And there are mothers saying goodbye to their children and entrusting them to the arms of Jesus. And grant us your salvation.

When I look at my list of names I am reminded that I am not in this motherhood thing all by myself. I am reminded that when I have hard day, or week, someone else is too, and I can offer my own trials up for them. I am reminded that there are other women praying for me.

When I look at my list of names I am reminded that motherhood comes in all shapes, sizes, and colors, and that there is no room for me cast judgments or comparisons. Because it's hard. This motherhood thing is really hard, and we are all trying our best for our families.

When I look at my list of names, I am reminded that what every mother needs and deserves is compassion, understanding, a listening ear, and a praying heart.

O, Divine Master, grant that I may not so much seek to be consoled as to console; to be understood as to understand; to be loved as to love