The older I get, the more I notice the way life really does follow its own seasons. Some seasons are for celebrating. Some seasons are for learning. Some seasons are for waiting. Some seasons are for grieving. Some seasons are for growing. And some seasons are for sitting on the beach sipping fruity beverages.
Fruity beverages is sort of a ridiculous, but semi-on target way to transition to this: I stopped nursing baby (toddler) Nick 9 days ago. Oh, but this isn’t a post about boobs… so don’t panic (or sorry to disappoint). Considering I nursed Grace until a month before Nick was born, I’ve essentially been breastfeeding since the end of January 2014. This feels like the end of a huge part of our lives, mostly because it is. It has been wonderful, challenging, weird, exhausting, and amazing. I am grateful I was able to have this experience with both kids.
And now I am ready for the next season of our lives.
I took a long walk by myself along the beach this past weekend and found myself thinking about what I hope for this next season to bring. I bought a $1.99 notebook (the cover’s a really ug shade of yellow, but it’s all they had) on the way back to the house and started making a list.
THE NEXT SEASON
In this next season, I want to invest more fully in my own health and wellbeing. I want to sleep more (which isn’t saying much, since I am basically always awake). I want to take more walks on the beach. I want to relish in alone time, without feeling guilty (real talk: it’s a careful balance). I want to be better attuned to my own common sense and good judgement and rely less on scary headlines and unhelpful advice. I want to spend as much time playing outside as possible. I want to enjoy those little flashes of independence both kids share every now and then (it’s like watching them becoming themselves over and over). I want to revisit some of the things that used to bring me joy, but that I stopped making time to do. I want this next season to be for connecting and reconnecting and resting and recharging.
And I want to find the perfect pair of cool mom jeans.
February is wrapping up. And no, it’s not a leap year. Consider this a friendly PSA that my birthday is basically moments away (March 1st always seems to sneak up on people). I’m not always so clear on how timezones work, but I think I’m already 35 on the other side of the world. Meanwhile, Grace keeps asking if I’m 45 yet. So there’s that.
But I don’t want to rush February out the door just yet. Despite the country imploding, I’m grateful we had things like my nephew’s baptism, Valentine’s Day, the Patriots winning the Super Bowl, Hillary’s message to the people and 70 degree weather to celebrate. We left our jackets at home and walked on the beach. We spotted the first plants sprouting. Spring is coming.
CURRENTLY | February 2017
…like summer has already arrived. Tacos, tomatoes, salads and strawberries.
…dinner with Nick most nights after the kids go to bed (as opposed to snacking from the babes’ plates at 5 o’clock). It’s been such a nice change.
So we watched like 5 minutes of a PBS special featuring various spy cameras disguised as animals, both because it sounded cool and it was not about the government. The idea is that you get to see animals behaving as if they were not being spied on. Unfortunately we caught the part where the baby monkey spy camera fell, and the real monkeys thought it had died and were, like, mourning. It was devastating. Did I mention that I am generally an emotional basket case?
Superstore + Homeland (they sort of balance each other out)
…plans for a meaningful Lenten exercise. In the past I’ve given up Diet Coke, snacking, sugar and swearing (but not all in the same year… I’m neither a saint nor a martyr). Other years, I’ve added more prayer, more intentional acts of kindness and more time away from technology. For me, Lent is the ultimate lesson in patience. In waiting. In remaining hopeful. Perhaps I’ll simply meditate on that lesson. While not drinking a Diet Coke.
A set of mini, mono-printed art journals. It was a random Tuesday night project, but I am thrilled with the results. I’ll share photos later this week.
A “good behavior” jar. I am semi-mortified and semi-amazed at how well it’s working. (To clarify: We are rewarding Grace’s good behavior, not mine…)
Currently listening to
“Call on Me” (Ryan Riback Remix) by Starley — it’s the perfect windows down in February song
This Irish Flute & Tin Whistle playlist on Spotify… baby Nick and I had music class this morning and the teacher broke out his tin whistle (apparently we missed the Irish flute last week). Nick was mesmerized in class and keeps dancing and clapping along to this lively mix. I think it’ll do wonders, too, for those times we are nearrrrrrly home and one or both kids is starting to nod off in the car.
I hope you’re enjoying these last bits of February and looking forward to a lovely March.
I don’t know about you, but putting away the holiday decorations nearly does me in every January. The gloomy weather and a cold I can’t seem to kick (kids and their germs, I tell ya) aren’t helping.
Winter Elizabeth is a lot less fun than Summer Elizabeth.
Semi-related: Winter Elizabeth somehow lost one of her children’s birth certificates. Not my finest work. Hence, baby Nick and I made our way to the registry office at City Hall today. As much as I would have rather stayed home, curled up on the sofa with a blanket and a book…
One-year-olds don’t do that. They just don’t.
An object in motion stays in motion… while staying put is a great way to lose momentum. And I’d already lost the birth certificate, so…
I couldn’t help but brighten up a bit as we approached City Hall, though. I love the juxtaposition of old and new less old buildings. I like seeing tourists milling about. I like the buzz of it all.
Once we finished the grown-up business part of our outing, I figured we may as well embrace a bit of adventure, too. We were bundled up and had plenty of snacks, why not?
We split a cup of Unicorn Blood (yes, really… it’s a delicious mix of beet, carrot, celery, watermelon + pineapple) from Mother Juice at the Boston Public Market, walked along the Greenway and did some people watching at Faneuil Hall. A little adventure was the perfect antidote to my winter mood.
For me, keeping busy (especially with good, fun, interesting things… not just boring, necessary things) goes a long way in keeping the winter blues at bay. In that vain, here are a few things to do in January.
Take an art class. (Creative Bug is my favorite source for online classes– I gravitate toward the painting and drawing classes, but you’ll find really accessible courses on knitting, sewing, collage, drawing, etc.)
On Labor Day two years ago, I shared Grace’s birth story (still hate that expression, still love becoming a mother… obvi). Today marks the first Labor Day since baby Nick was born and he’s exactly 9 months old today, so this seems as good a time as ever to reflect on the day we welcomed him to the world and to our family.
Waiting until Labor Day was sort of a convenient excuse for me to take nine months to digest, reflect on and embrace those sort of bizarre, sometimes anxious, but ultimately amazing 24-ish hours of labor. And because all people and pregnancies and labors and deliveries and babies and postpartum meals (peanut M + Ms for life) are different, I’m sharing less about what actually happened and more about how I remember things.
My hair is full of mom secrets.
Because the second time around, you have an experience to compare things to. You have expectations (even if you know you shouldn’t). You sort of feel like you know what you’re doing, but you also know you’re not a medical professional (unless you’re a medical professional). You’re a little bit further removed from the childbirth classes (regardless of whether you paid attention… or if you, like me, left the room for fear of being grossed out and read pamphlets about influenza in the hallway). You know what it feels like to have that baby placed on your chest for the first time. You just can’t imagine how your heart could get any more full.
I don’t want at all to sound like, Oh… I’ve done this before. I’ve got it under control. (If anything, it’s quite the opposite.) Or that I am in any way better equipped as a parent than any one else. I also think it’s important to express that families come to be families in any number of ways. All are good. And there is no better place for a child to be than in a loving family.
So back to those influenza pamphlets. There was an aura of blissful ignorance about me as I delivered Grace. I didn’t want to know any more than I needed to know, and because I had no experience—personal or otherwise (this is very real: I fainted during sex ed in the 6th grade and again in 9th grade biology… and then skipped the video during our childbirth class mostly so I could remain conscious)—it was relatively easy to trust the process. To surrender to labor. To let my body (and Grace) do its thing.
In the days before Nick was born, I knew he was coming. He was allegedly two weeks early… but given the fact that he is nine months old and already the size of a Buick, I’d be less surprised if you told me he was two months late. Right around Thanksgiving, I woke up every day thinking, this is it. And it wasn’t. Until it was.
I had planned to take Grace to see the fox at the Trailside Museum (they have some sort of special connection) on a Friday morning, but my back felt especially achy and I remembered I needed to pick up Clark’s prescription (honestly… why are these the things I remember? Imagine what powerful thoughts my brain could harness if it forgot about ridiculous things like phone messages from the vet?), so we headed to Castle Island for a walk instead. After a loop or two, I called our midwife.
She called back just as I was getting to the vet. So I was the super normal person talking about being in labor while sitting in the waiting room next to a man cradling his sick cat (it might have been healthy, I know even less about cats than I do childbirth… so, I know literally nothing about cats). In essence, she told me to leave the vet’s office and come to, like, the human doctor’s office. I remember thinking how weird it felt to be in public, and knowing I was in labor. Should I warn people? I don’t know. (I should warn my husband, I decided. Yes. That was a good call.)
While I waited for Nick to get home and for my parents to pick up Grace, I chatted with our neighbor, who is a former cop. He told me he had delivered six (maybe it was four) babies in his squad car. All he needed was a blanket. I mostly hoped it didn’t come to that. I thought for sure I’d need more than a blanket. For starters, I wanted one of those peanut-shaped yoga balls. Also, medicine. And a sanitary environment.
This is sort of how the next 15 or so hours would unfold. I knew baby Nick was coming. I knew it would be soon, but I didn’t know how soon (more than 15 minutes, but less than a day… that was my guess). I knew I was uncomfortable, but I also knew I could manage.
Nick was born at a different hospital than Grace, and I had to consciously remind myself to trust the process despite everything feeling very unfamiliar. We stayed in triage from 10:30-ish that Friday night until finally getting a delivery room around 3 AM. During that stretch, we had to listen to all kind of things through the thin curtain dividers. And other people had to listen to me throw up and make groaning noises. For that, I am sort of sorry.
When we were finally moved to a room, I got wrapped in warm blankets and spritzed with lavender water by a particularly kind nurse. She turned on the hospital’s equivalent of the Nature Channel and encouraged me to be “soothed by Earth’s beauty.” Not normal, per se, but I kept telling myself to trust the process. To surrender.
During morning rounds, the midwife on duty said baby Nick would be born that day… which seemed like an awfully big window. She told me to relax as much as possible, and encouraged grown-up Nick to grab coffee. I worried that the baby was hearing the crashing waves, cawing seagulls and distant foghorns from the nature channel and thinking “This lady’s trying to give birth to me in the middle of the Atlantic. I should stay in until she finds dry land!” No sooner had she left the room than we were pressing the call button to have her and the labor and delivery nurse hightail it back.
Less than 30 minutes later, baby Nick’s tiny, perfect, warm body was pressed against mine. My husband was kissing my head, tears streaming down his face. And everything, everything, everything was right.
And really. That’s the only part of this story that matters. (I probably could have skipped the part about the cat at the vet, but I believe in setting the scene.)
So much of becoming a parent and becoming a family is unpredictable. It’s messy. It’s strange. It’s uncomfortable. It can get real weird, real fast. It’s anxiety producing. And once you are that parent, and you are that family, it doesn’t get any easier. Your heart lives outside your body, vulnerable and exposed. You worry. You cry. You stay awake for, like… ever. Some days you forget to put on pants because you’re too busy pureeing organic kale.
But every day, you trust the process more and more. You embrace surrendering as not only something very good, but something (to quote Salt-n-Pepa) very necessary. You remind yourself that the best possible place for child is in a loving family. And you’ve got that covered.
Whether you’re sitting on a beach soaking up the last waves of summer, or cradling a newborn in your arms (like my beautiful and amazing sister!), or somewhere in between… Happy Labor Day.
I love a good podcast. And I love pretending I have the technical know-how, requisite storytelling ability and captive audience to manage a successful podcast of my own. But um, I have none of the above.
I do have some ideas, though. A whole notebook full of ’em. And they’re free for the taking. Just please make sure, if you do go ahead and develop any of these ideas into the next Serial… let me know. So I can subscribe. Oh, and maybe let me do the MailChimp ad that will surely kick off each episode. Cool. Thank you.
THE NEXT SERIAL | IMAGINARY PODCASTS
Idea 1: Mystery Store
You might have one (or more) of these stores in your town, you might not… but you probably do. The signage is sort of murky. Maybe the store is called Jim’s or ABC America or Real Deal$ (for the record, I made these up, so if your store is actually called any of these things… sorry. I’m especially sorry if you used a dollar sign instead of an ‘s’ to spell the word deals. Really $orry.).
Or perhaps there’s no sign at all.
Maybe the store presents itself as one thing, but you kind of get the sense it’s another thing entirely. Like, you swear you’ve seen people walk in for a haircut and walk out with an electric keyboard. Or you notice a bunch of not-so-gently-used baby strollers out front, but the advertisements hanging in the window feature a “catch of the day” special.
Okay, so I’ve set the scene. The way this podcast works is simple, if not a tiny bit dangerous. You identify a store that fits the criteria outlined above. You enter the store, poke around a little (while describing the things you’re poking so your audience feels like they’re in the trenches with you, obviously), maybe act interested in something specific. When you’re finally approached by a salesperson, you engage them in some friendly banter and then BAM! You hit them with the million dollar question(or maybe $7.99 question, all depends on the store, right?):
OK. But what do you realllly sell here?
It’s anyone’s guess where the episode (and frankly, your life and safety) goes from here. Exciting, right?
Idea 2: Conversations from the floor
This one is inspired by the 2 year-old in my life. She seems to be spending an increasing amount of time on the floor. Sometimes she’s kicking. Sometimes she’s crying. Sometimes she’s looking for an errant cheddar bunny under the sofa.
Toddlers are really, really funny. This doesn’t always translate in the moment (tantrums can be really upsetting for everyone involved, and I don’t mean to make light of what seems to be an important phase of child development… except to say that we sort of all need a sense of humor to survive). But they’re funny, nevertheless.
Just this morning, I had the following conversation with Grace:
Grace: Mom. Mom. Mom. Mama. Mommy. Mom. MOM!
Me: Yes, honey?
Grace: Mom. Mom. Mom. MOOOOOMMMMM.
Me: Do you need something, or are you just saying my name?
Grace: I’m saying your name.
Grace: And I need something. I need a reflection light.
Me: Can you tell me what a reflection light is?
Grace: I need it.
Me: I don’t know what it is. What do you use it for?
Grace: I need it to look at trees at nighttime.
Me: Can you tell me what it is again?
Grace: I said it. It’s a reflection light.
Me: A flash light? (lucky guess)
Grace: Yes. I told you. Please, you’ll get me one at the store today.
Actually, maybe this podcast is more of a quiz show. You guess what the H a toddler is talking about. And if you’re correct, the toddler’s parents give you a handful of slightly moist Cheerios that they found between the seat cushions in their car.
Idea 3: The Pregnant Shopping CartImpulse ShoppingWhy Am I Buying This? Title TBD
I’ll happily hand this one off to any currently pregnant moms. Or maybe we can cast a wider net and call it Impulse Shopping. Whoever grabs this tasty snack cake of an idea can sort of the details.
I came up with this one while nine months pregnant, carefully placing my organic produce on the belt at the grocery store check-out when… What’s this? Six bags of sour gummy bears?
I’d be lying if I said things like this only happened when I was pregnant, but I believe my impulse shopping was especially cool, weird and interesting when I was expecting.
And if you choose to stick with the pregnant lady angle, maybe this podcast could have a sort of public service element whereby you educate the masses on what you should/should not say or do to pregnant women. Like in episode one, you could (genuinely) complement a mother-to-be for looking so radiant. You ask her how she’s feeling. You respond kindly and enthusiastically and non-judgmentally to any details she shares.
You don’t say things like “Whoaaaaa! You’re about ready to POP!” Or assert that you’re positive there is a “secret twin in there.” (And yes, these are things strangers said to me when I was pregnant.) And maybe you make a point of announcing into your micro-cassette recorder (Or does it all happen on your iPhone? I don’t know. That’s why you’re making the podcast, not me.) that you are not touching anyone’s belly. You’re just not.
Or…. maybe you just stick to interesting impulse purchases. Or maybe you empower a toddler to make impulse purchases in a mystery store. Yep. That’s going straight to the top of the charts.
It took nearly all month, but the sun is shining and the temperatures are more May-like than November-ish. So we’re eating ice cream dairy-free sorbet (I’m like, Live a little. And my stomach is like, Please don’t.).
May 2016 | Currently
Grateful for improved weather – that cold, rainy stretch we had earlier this month made me feel positively… negative.
Happy that we got to see my extended family this weekend at my cousin’s wedding down the Cape!
A bit itchy. I don’t want to rush nature along and I know trees need their leaves and all, but I wouldn’t mind coming home from a walk or workout and not feeling like I’m wearing a pollen sweat suit. Or whatever.
Relieved (speaking of itchiness) that Clark’s vet referred us to a dermatologist who’s helping us get his allergies in check (hopefully). We started his immunotherapy injections last night, and I feel like an especially weird dog person, but these are the things you do when you love your aging, semi-grouchy, fully-sensitive French bulldog.
Like I need a new big project or goal or challenge to work towards. But maybe I should just put away last week’s laundry.
Lots of vegetables and fruits and sprouted things. Not so many nachos and pizzas and processed things. Girlfriend needs to reign it in a bit.
Aaaaaand the aforementioned lemon sorbet. With rainbow sprinkles. Just do it.
Currently listening to
The Bon Iver radio station on Spotify — it’s extra chill, which is good, because I am extra not.
Grace sing “Ring around the rosie, a pocket full of rosies!”
The OJ miniseries (that’s definitely not the official name, but you likely know what I’m talking about… and you also know I’m too lazy to Google)– I was skeptical when my parents recommended it (sorry!), but Nick and I got completely sucked in.
Not much of anything art-wise… but I just signed up for a new painting class (Mary Ann Moss’ Oh My Gouache — totally obsessed with the name) and started a new large format sketchbook earlier this week.
The last two weeks have been an exhausting, but blissful blur of newborn snuggling, diaper changing, toddler chasing, and trying to remember if I took a shower or not. I feel like we’re starting to find our rhythm (which basically means nothing, because one thing I do remember from Grace’s early days is that as soon as we got comfortable, things changed — her sleeping schedule, her eating schedule, the weather, you get the point).
This may be the Universe’s way of sending a message, but the things that are totally beyond my control (and therefore, the things that I am constantly worrying about) are going beautifully. Grace is the most gentle, sweet and curious older sister. We went out for a little ride earlier this week (in nearly 60 degree weather… not normal) and she kept whispering, “Look, baby Nick, more Christmas lights.” And it made me so happy that I cried and ruined the moment.
On that note… here’s what else I’ve been up to this month.
Currently | December, 2015
Newborn baby smell — I’d be a billionaire if I could bottle this smell.
Season 2 of Serial — Nick and I have listened to the first two episodes together on Thursday nights. It’s both nice and sort of weird to sit around listening to audio in the same way we might watch television… like, what should I be looking at? This season is quite different from the first, but I’m already hooked.
Adele’s 21 on repeat (still)
Christmas music (obvi)
The West Wing — I don’t know why I didn’t watch this when it was actually airing (my whole family was obsessed), but after listening to the Martin Sheen interview mentioned above, I had to give it a try. Blessed be Netflix… we have found our next streaming addiction.
Domino and Real Simple… they’re like books… for people who have slept less than 2 hours per night…. Also: I feel like the RS cover is speaking directly to my unable-to-meal-plan, wardrobe-deficient soul.
My new BAMR bands — I am thrilled to be an ambassador for this fabulous brand. Each quarter, BAMR Bands donates 10% of their proceeds to a selected charitable organization benefitting women and children (past recipients have included Every Mother Counts, a favorite of mine). To receive a 10% discount on these adorable, non-slip headbands, use the code OnTap10 online.
This month’s Nature Box delivery — We’ve had a NatureBox subscription for a while, but this month’s box is an especially good one. I tried to select items that would appeal to Nick (Spicy Sriracha Popcorn), Grace (Peanut Butter Graham Jam) and me (Guacamole Bites)… but mostly… I’ve been snacking on them all. For 50% off your first delivery, click here (this is a referral link, albeit a tasty one)
Piles of laundry everywhere — I forgot how many outfits newborns whip through in a day. Yikes.
A painting here, a drawing there — My current m.o. is “fit in it when you can.” (And try not to make too much of a mess in the process.)
Plans for the new year — I’m oddly excited for 2016. So much changed in 2015 that I felt more reactive and less intentional. I’m looking forward to being a bit more thoughtfully engaged in the coming twelve months.
A few holiday treats, including sparkling cranberries and “happy cakes,” as Grace calls them
Who needs a vacation alarm clock (set for 3 hours earlier than you desire to wake up), when you have a toddler at the foot of your bed?
I woke up like this. With Grace pinching my toes and yelling, “Hellooooo!”
In an effort to spare the rest of our family the 4:30 wake-up call over the 4th of July weekend, we snuck out for some early morning walks down to the beach. The Cape might be my favorite place on Earth. Except for the place where they make popcorn (I’ve never been to a popcorn factory, but I just know it’s magical).
Not a bad way to start the day.
We covered 3.5 miles on Friday on our own, and 2.5 miles on Saturday with my brother and sister-in-law and their own mini-human alarm clock, my niece.
6 AM pajama parties on the beach are the best.
And with the entire world still sleeping, we had the beach to ourselves and our pick of the prettiest shells.
Any day we are lucky enough to wake up at the Cape (even if it’s at 4 AM), we are lucky enough.
This time last year, I was wearing a very unattractive, very orthopedic boot thing, having tripped over Grace’s bouncy chair and subsequently broken a toe… just an hour and a half before my family showed up for Mother’s Day brunch at our condo. (Also: My parents were trapped at an airport somewhere, so the guest of honor wasn’t there to be showered with praise and gifts and affection… and to listen to me moan about my toe.)
Ready to party. Or something.
In addition to being temporarily physically crippled, I can’t say I was in the best shape mentally, or whatever, either. I had been back at work (after a not-so-work-free maternity leave) for a few weeks, was getting up to nurse Grace every couple of hours, couldn’t find anything that fit (nor that matched the boot), and sort of had no idea what I was doing at any given moment. Having people over to a mostly-clean home, serving mostly-edible food, and not having an entirely unexpected crying episode provoked by a diaper ad, or a cheesy song, or a faint, passing breeze felt like a major, major accomplishment.
This time last year, I was second-guessing every decision I made, and agonizing over the longterm effects those decisions would have on Grace. Was she eating too little? Was she eating too much? You’ll notice I wasn’t asking myself if she was sleeping too much, because… well… neither of us were sleeping.
I worried I was falling down (no pun intended… but sort of yes, pun intended because I really still can’t believe I tripped over that darn chair) as a wife. I had no idea how I would manage my work responsibilities and my family responsibilities. And how, on God’s green earth, was I ever going to get all the laundry done? Would my body always feel so foreign (and lumpy)? What would my first work trip away from Grace be like (Fortunately, I didn’t have the capacity at the time to imagine myself using a breast pump in a bathroom stall at the Detroit airport… but now I do. And you do, too. Sorry.)? Would I ever see my friends again (this would likely require staying up past 7 PM)? Would I ever have anything to talk about besides diaper pails? Would every single drop-off at daycare feel so heartbreaking?
It’s taken some time (and I don’t think my toe will ever be the same), but my goodness… What a difference a year makes. I’m not perfect (you should see what I’m wearing) and life’s not perfect, but so much has changed for the better. It’s amazing what a little time and confidence (and SLEEP!) can do.
Last weekend I had the chance to celebrate Mother’s Day with my parents and family on Saturday, and with Nick, Grace and Clark on Sunday. And I felt calm. And relaxed. And happy. And grateful. And I couldn’t help but notice that life is sort of following the seasons this time around. Not only is it actually (finally!) Spring, but I’m in the middle of my own transition of sorts. And it’s full of (I almost said “blooming with”… but I stopped myself) promise and excitement and optimism and a “who knows what might happen?” sort of thing.
At the end of this week (though it’s been in the works for months… aren’t I a good secret keeper? Tell me everything!), I’ll be stepping down from my role at an organization I’ve been with for eight years to be home with Grace.
I sort of always thought I would work (in the capacity I’ve been used to working, like, in an office). And I am realizing now, as I make this transition, how much of my ego and self-worth have been tangled up in being busy. And important. And in charge. I’ve also come to see, though, how much of my last eleven or so years have been spent moving from one mini-crisis to the next, closing out the day with just barely enough energy to be a semi-normal, non-awful person. The good has far outweighed the bad (truly), though, I have loved my work. I have loved the people I have worked with. I have loved the people I’ve had the privilege of serving. I have loved the challenges and the lessons and the surprises.
I know there will be pieces of all this that are not easy, but I also know how lucky I am to have options. It took a lot of confidence and courage to make this choice, but I wouldn’t be able to make the choice if I didn’t have options. I know this is not always the case. Meanwhile, that new boss of mine? She’s pretty cute.