Thursday, January 31, 2013


We were driving home from dinner, my husband and I in the front seat of the car, both girls in the back.  The little one had been sleeping since we'd left home, so we knew we were already on borrowed time before we heard the whimpers start.  My husband and I glanced at each other, silently assessing how long until we would be home, how long we had until she erupted into screams.

BG had different ideas.

"Mommy, pick up this baby!  Mommy!  This baby needs milk!"

Ever since I got pregnant, I've worried about how to do right by everyone.  Someone, it seemed, was sure to get shortchanged.  Would big sister be forever heartbroken at the loss of my undivided attention?  Would little sister always get less than what her big sister got?  How could this be fair to anyone?  What had I done to my poor little girls?

But, for the most part, it hasn't been that way.  My big girl asks for her little sister every morning when she wakes up, right after asking for mommy and daddy.  She points out when it's the baby's turn, protectively hovers when the baby is crying, offers toys and blankets at any opportunity.

My little girl kicks happily by herself on her playmat, seems to enjoy a little alone time in her swing, but also gazes intently when her older sister puts a face three inches away from hers.

And sure, there are times when it's hard.  When BG says, "No mommy!  Daddy take baby!  I take mommy!"  or wants me to twirl RIGHT NOW while I'm feeding.  When my little one decides to start screaming hysterically right when I need to put her sister down for a nap, when she Will Not Be Put Down at a time when the two year old is FINALLY asking to use the potty.  When I don't know how to be in two places at once, and I feel like I'm ripping in half because I can't make everyone happy.

But yesterday, when I was winding my big girl down for her nap, and she had just started to melt into me on the couch, the baby started whimpering.  I knew she'd want to eat soon, but I wanted to put her off just a little so I could get her sister to  bed, so I started shushing and patting her.

Her head laid against my chest and without taking her eyes off Daniel Tiger on the TV, BG reached across me.  She crooked her index finger, pressing the second knuckle to her sister's lips.  The baby opened her eyes wide, opened her mouth to gently suck on the offered finger, and stopped fussing.

"Oooh, baby sister,"  giggled my eldest.  "Baby sister kiss me."

I think what I'm giving my girls is more than enough.

Wednesday, January 30, 2013

Doing it right: It's not me

This week, I had to dig deep to think of what I've been doing right.  I made some seemingly huge mistakes this week, one involving a car and the side of my garage, and it's been hard to get past that.  And as far as daily life goes, I feel like I took a huge step backwards with some of the things I've been working on.  The counters aren't clear, the TV's been on all  day, and I haven't been unplugging AT ALL.

But here's the thing.

None of those things define who I am or what I'm worth.  They're all things that happened or things I've done, and some of them I really regret.  But they aren't me.

This is something new for me.  To separate the things I've done from who I am, to feel guilty but not ashamed, to be able to come back from something I feel crappy about and not let it take me over completely.  It's hard.  Really hard.  But all new skills are hard, and I hate being at the beginning of things, I suck at sucking at things.  And this may be the most important skill I've ever learned.

So, that's what I've been doing right.

What have you been doing right?  Link up with Jaime from James and Jax

Friday, January 25, 2013

I want to be present

I keep reading about being present, and I'm not sure I know how.

It sounds so wonderful.  I want to slow down, to experience each moment - or at least some of those moments - in a more complete way.  To sit on the floor with one of my daughters and be wholly engrossed in what she's doing.  To think of nothing else but blocks or  princesses or the imaginary tea I'm sipping. To not be worried about the dinner, or what the next activity will be, or how long it is until naptime.  To really experience everything with every one of my senses and faculties, and to remember it afterwards in a way that is both physical and spiritual.

Is that really something that happens to people?

I know I need to get rid of some of the noise, that I need to keep my computer and TV shut off for more of the day.  I know that I already do a good job listening to my big girl, that I do enough snuggling my little one. I know that I could do better, but that I am doing plenty good enough as a mother.   I know that in the long term it will matter.

But I want it to matter now.

Sometimes, when we're all cuddled on the couch, I get glimpses of it.  I have seconds where all of me is flooded with the reality of being a mom, and I am suddenly not waiting for a thing and am filled with gratitude.

The rest of the time?  At my best, I'm thinking of objectives and goals, of how what we're doing will get us to  the next best place.  At my worst, I'm overwhelmed and completely shut off.

I know, I KNOW that it's okay not to cherish every moment, that there will be plenty more moments.  That my kids are getting from me what they need, and most of the time I'm getting plenty back from them.

But I go to write and I realize that from the past 2.5 years of being a mom I can hardly remember a thing.  Where have I been?  For good or for bad, I want to be here, now.

Wednesday, January 23, 2013

In which I take a nap

I'm going to be honest about something.

I don't really like naps very much.

(For me, that is.  I LOVE naps for the toddler.)

When BG was a newborn, and didn't sleep AT ALL at night, I treasured the three hours of sleep we got in the morning after my husband left for work because it was the only sleep I got all day.  But now, it's different.    My little one sleeps a lot at night and, more importantly, my big one is awake most of the day.

Two hours a day is all I get to myself.

I want to read, I want to write, I want to learn, I want to play.  I want to eat lots of chocolate.  I want to feel pampered.  I want to get things done around the house, and do it quickly and efficiently.

But man, I'm so tired.

Usually when I take a nap, I wake up feeling worse.  I wake up to my big girl screaming for me from her room, and it takes me a minute to be able to get out of bed.  I feel guilty, groggy and resentful.

But today I'm not sure what happened.  I opened my eyes on the couch a minute before I heard her yell.  And then I slowly got up and finished my water before I went upstairs.  I stopped to pick things up before I went upstairs.  By the time I got there, BG had stopped yelling for me.

I opened her door, and she smiled at me from her bed.  "Good girl!" she announced.

"Yes, baby, you are a good girl."

"Let's go see baby sister!"

"Okay, sweetie, let's go."

I feel human again, I feel refreshed.  And, no, I didn't meet all of my needs during this naptime, but somehow that's okay right now.

Tuesday, January 22, 2013

Doing it Right: Digging Deep and other wins
1. This week, I came upon this thought from Gretchen of the Happiness Project, suggesting that we dig deep.  I've really made an effort to live this.  Last night, my toddler was sitting on my lap asking to watch Wheel of Fortune for half an hour before it was on.  Every time she put her face 2 cm in front of mine and said "Mommy Wheel!" I would just take a deep breath and say "Yes, honey, but it's not on yet.  We have to wait."  To which she would reply, "Wait, Wheel" -- then pause for 30 seconds and we'd start over.  I will now accept my trophy.

2.I let my husband sleep late this weekend without grumping or grouching at him at all.

3. I shaved my legs on Sunday night.  In January, people.

4. I have been making an effort to keep my kitchen counters clear, including putting away my clean dishes instead of leaving them in my dish rack every day.  I haven't been perfect but I've been doing pretty darn good.

5. I've been reading and writing most days this week.

6. I'm okay with not being perfect at any of  these resolutions.
So, what have you been doing right this week?

Linking up with Jaime from James and Jax  

Monday, January 21, 2013

Still my baby

A strange thing happened the day I came home from the hospital with my littlest girl.

Suddenly?  My two year old wasn't a baby anymore.  And I so wasn't ready.

Two months ago, 36 weeks pregnant, I took my big girl to Target to pick up some portraits.  It had been a long no-nap day and I just needed to go, to get something done, to accomplish one task.  And so, when she fell asleep in the car on the way there, I scooped her up and carried her into the store.  Amazingly, she stayed asleep, and I walked around the entire store with 28 pounds of toddler draped over my shoulder, her feet hanging down over my very pregnant belly.

As I felt the weight of her settle into my body, my breathing slowed.  My shoulders lowered. Several times, I paused just to press my lips to her head and smooth down her hair with both hands.

But here, next to her little sister, she looks impossibly big.  She wants to hold the baby.  She wants to help cook dinner.  When did she start talking in articulate sentences?

I don't remember her newborn smell.  I don't remember her feeling light in my arms, the weight of her draped over just one arm.  I only remember the sharp, insistent sound of her infant cries as a story that I tell, not as the stabbing in my chest they once were.

Sometimes she crawls around or lies on the baby's playmat with her feet in the air, and my eyes fill with tears.

And I know that I love the girl she is now.  She snuggles in my armpit on the couch, tells me she loves me, makes up songs about mommy and daddy and baby sister.  She is a source of joy in my life like nothing I can describe.

But as I hold them both in my arms watching Sesame Street, I wish I could keep my big girl little, just a little bit longer.

Tuesday, January 15, 2013

One month

Sweet little girl,

I am having a hard time believing you have been here for a month.  As you rise and fall with my breath, your legs still curled frog-like under you but your arms wrapped around my waist in what I can pretend is not an accidental hug, I realize that you are already starting to grow up.  I hope that in the craziness that was your first month of life - holidays, visitors, and of course your charming big sister - that I haven't missed any moments that I can't get back, but I know I probably have.  I'm sorry for that.

But there have been enough moments that I haven't missed, and I think you haven't missed them either.  You see everything with those wide blue eyes, and I think that even when you have your eyes closed you are listening to us.  You know how much we all love you, and how hard we're all trying to get this right.  And I'm pretty sure if I asked you, my calm, alert, agreeable baby, you'd tell me that we're doing just fine.  I think you have been telling me, and for that as well, I am grateful.

In our moments alone together like this one, I breathe slower and easier.  When you are sleeping, I want to hold you against my chest like this, flooding us both with all the chemicals that are really science's way of explaining love.  When you are awake, I am as fascinated by the newness of everything you see as you are.

I can't believe that your first month is already finished, that some of your tiniest is already gone, and I miss it. But I also know that what's coming next is going to be in so many ways so much better.  And while I can't promise that I will always get things right - I'm going to go ahead and promise that I won't - I can give you my word that I will always do the best I can for you, and that you and your sister will ALWAYS always be good enough for me.

Monday, January 14, 2013

Doing it right: The Best Thing to do

I struggle a lot with knowing what the right thing to do is, and knowing whether I did the right thing after.  It causes me a lot of anxiety, and often stops me from accomplishing anything, in turn leaving me even more frustrated and overwhelmed.  So my new motto for the week is: The best thing to do is Something.

And with that in mind, I did all this right.
  1. I emptied my dishwasher and tidied up my kitchen, getting the flat surfaces mostly cleared off.
  2. I put on an audiobook and folded two loads of laundry.
  3. When my baby insisted on being held, I held her.
  4. When my toddler said "No butter jelly" after asking for it, I didn't freak out.  I just put it in a tupperware and got her some yogurt.
  5. I wrote in my journal, even though I didn't think I had anything to say.
  6. I'm publishing this blog post without stopping to worry if it's deep or meaningful or Important.

Friday, January 11, 2013

Space and quiet

I need more space and quiet in my life.  And the culprits aren't the two small people who like to simultaneously sit on top of me and scream.  They're okay.  They're just doing their jobs.

But there's a lot of other noise.  From social media, from the perpetually turned on TV, from my own anxious ever-busy brain.  I am inundated, I am surrounded.

And the paradox is, the more I am struggling, the louder it's getting in my head, the more I'm starting to feel crushed and suffocated by it all, the more I seek out the noise.

Quiet is scary.  And the noise in my head is the worst one, so maybe I think if there's just enough other noise, I will drown it out.

But I don't.

In a lot of ways it makes sense.  The more lonely I feel, the more helpless I feel, the more overwhelmed I feel, the more I seek out "easy" ways of fulfilling my needs.  "141 characters is all I can handle," I joke.  It's too hard to read a real book, so I read Internet articles.  It's too hard to write something honest and genuine and vulnerable, so I write something witty and snarky.  It's too hard to actually call someone or get out of my house so I sit and refresh Facebook for an hour.

But those things don't satisfy.  They don't mean anything.  They aren't real.

And that's not entirely true either because I have some real and meaningful exchanges on social media.  I've made real friends there.  But it's harder.  And it's rare.  And it's usually not the point.

And when I do have two kids crawling on me, and I haven't slept at night, of COURSE I need help and company and commiseration.  And of COURSE it's hard for me to do the hard stuff.  I can't just say "well, instead of tweeting, I'll write a novel and found a live support group and participate in a fun and engaging activity (okay, it's sad that I can't even come up with one to make this point, right), all before my morning coffee."

There needs to be space for the easy stuff, especially at this point of my life.

But there needs to be space without it too.

Thursday, January 10, 2013

My girls

Last night, about 20 minutes after I put the two year old to bed, she started crying.  Not a whimpering, whining, trying to get back downstairs kind of cry, but an actual cry of distress.  Tears even.

I handed off the baby and went back up the stairs, opened her door, and turned on the light.

"Mommy mommy mommy."

"I'm here, honey, what's wrong?"

"Mommy mommy."

"I'm right here, baby.  Are you okay?  Does something hurt?"


"What hurts?"

She put her hand to her neck.  "Tummy hurts."

"Your ... your throat hurts honey?  Your neck?"


"That's your neck.  Does your neck hurt?"

"Oh!"  she laughed, her eyes still only halfway open, and lifted up her shirt. "This tummy.   This neck."

"Right.  So does your neck hurt?"

"This tummy.  This neck.  Eyes.  Mouth.  Nose."

"Okay, sweetie, so nothing hurts?"

"Head.  Head shoulders knees toes."

And as she burst into song, I kissed her and said goodnight, gracefully slipping out the door, leaving her still singing in the room behind me.


It's hard to be mad at her when she's so charming and funny.  Or it's hard to be amused and charmed when she's so maddening.  I haven't figured out which yet.

Whether something hurt or not, my sweet big girl didn't sleep very well last night.  She woke up as many times as little sister who, let's face it has much more right to it.  And so the two of us spent the morning in a constant state of being alternately furious with and gushingly attached to each other, while my poor sweet baby spent the morning trying to protect her head from her excessively affectionate sister and staring at us like we were crazy.

Which, as I've said before, fair enough.

I spend a lot of my morning yelling at my toddler, and at least as much time apologizing to her.

When BG goes down for her nap every day, my little one wakes up and looks around.  I'm sure that I'm imagining the relief, that I'm projecting ... right?  I nurse her and I hold her on my shoulder and stare at her face and I apologize to her.  I tell her I'm sorry that I don't pay more attention to her.  Sorry that big sister gets so much of the spotlight, that she's Big in more ways than age and size.  Sorry that mommy is that way too, with All. The. Feelings. All. The. Time.

And she just stares back at me.

I don't know if I'm getting this right.  I don't know how to keep them both happy, how to make sure everyone (including me?) gets what she needs.  I think maybe I can't. And I want this post to end like all of my posts do, with some wise sounding pat answer, like "and maybe that's okay" or "but I'm trying and that's enough."  But I don't know.  I want to do better.  I just don't know if there is really any way to do better.

Monday, January 7, 2013

Doing it right

Someone during the course of my teacher training taught me, and forgive me that I am totally stealing this and I don't remember from who, "We talk about what we value, and we value what we talk about."

I've been thinking about this a lot lately.  We talk so much about our flaws and failures, and then - accidentally or intentionally - about other people's flaws.  I once saw someone confess online to having let her son watch "a whole hour of TV once."  My self-esteem pretty much fell through the floor.  And while we want to help ourselves and each other be better, while we want to be honest about how hard this whole mom thing is, maybe what we're really doing is giving the negative stuff all the power.  

So, I was glad to see my dear friend Jaime start a bloghop about the things we're doing right.  And while you aren't going to see me pinning fancy cake designs or sensory bins or my 5k progress any time soon (you do still know where you are, don't you?), there are a few things I'm getting right.

  1. I drank at least 36 ounces of water today.
  2. I bundled up BG and went outside to play, even though I didn't want to.
  3. I make milk.  'Nuff said.
  4. I am writing this blog post with two children in my lap.  Let's call that a great big win, shall we?

Thursday, January 3, 2013

Today is okay

Yesterday was DH's first day back at work since my little one was born.  I was nervous and eager and ready to try so hard to do everything right.

We went outside and played in the snow.  We snuggled on the couch, all three of us.  BG and I played with playdough, with princesses, with blocks.  We baked cornbread and emptied the dishwasher together.  I cleaned the bathrooms.  I propped the baby up in the Boppy and folded three loads of laundry.

There were some hard moments, like when the little one woke up and started crying (what?? she cries???) just as I was tucking BG in for her nap, or when BG decided to pull stuff out of the trash while I was nursing, but overall?  I felt like a rockstar.

Today?  Not so much.

The baby decided to power nurse for two hours last night, and again when she woke up this morning.  BG woke up with a nightmare at 5, then slept until 8 (of course waking up in the middle of a nursing session and quickly working herself into a frenzy when I didn't come upstairs).

I was tired.  I was flustered.  I was determined to not set expectations too high.

We did nothing all morning but stay in our pajamas and watch TV until 11:30.

BG asked for a fruit leather for breakfast and I gave it to her.

I put the baby down in the swing, and then on her mat, and then in the swing again because when BG does nothing but watch TV all morning, she gets a little bit difficult to deal with and I need both my hands.

I had to yell at BG for climbing on top of her sister.  For trying to push her in the swing.  For throwing my water glass across the room.

This morning wasn't great, people.  I'm not a genius at this mom of two thing.

It's naptime now.  I tried to sleep, I swear I did.  But really all I wanted to do was lie in bed and stare at the ceiling for a while.  Rest.  Process. Recover.

I'm still tired.  I'm still not a genius at this.  But I'm okay.

And while I'm well aware that it's easy to be okay while both kids are sleeping, and that this afternoon might suck again, I'm kind of okay with that.

The thing I never understood about being kind to myself and giving myself grace is this: it's not that if you're kind to yourself, the day will go well and you'll feel better.  It's that you're kind to yourself even if the day sucks and you feel like crap.  That you recognize that you don't have to fix it, that no permanent damage is being done, and that even if you're not enjoying it, you're safe and whole and not at all broken.

And that's why today's okay.

Wednesday, January 2, 2013

My (holy crap) birth story

The last two weeks of  my pregnancy  were rough.  I was having contractions that woke me up at night, my pelvis hurt when I waddled walked, and both my body and doctor had me convinced that I would have the baby any minute.   I was uncomfortable, impatient, and anxious about the uncertainty.  Plus, I was worried about finding somewhere to take BG and get to the hospital on time since my first labor was so fast.

Or at least I thought it was.

That Friday, one day before I was 39 weeks, I went to a Christmas party and chased BG around and down the stairs 100 times.  I joked with the other moms about how she was helping me kickstart my labor.  That night, my in-laws got here and jokingly congratulated me on waiting for them to get here.


At 4 AM, I woke up with contractions again.  Only this time, I had no question as to whether they were real contractions.  I was in a lot of pain, even between contractions, like I was with BG when I got to the hospital at  8 cm.   I needed to go.

Only, first I needed to call my doctor.  Since my water hadn't broken, I would need to give him a reason why I wanted to go to the hospital, so I started timing contractions.  And got on twitter.

I timed about two contractions at 6 minutes apart and decided I had enough evidence (in related news, I think I must be really bad at timing contractions).  I woke up my husband and called the doctor who told me "Well, if you really want to you can start heading over.  They might send you home though."  I was in the car seconds later.

We were out the front door by 5, and at the front door of the hospital by 5:45.

I walked up to the labor and delivery department, clutching the wall as I went, and trying to remember to breathe.  When the secretary told me to have a seat and someone would come get me, I almost cried.

In the triage room, I barely managed to get my gown on before announcing to the nurse "Umm, I'm in a lot of pain."  

"Okay, I'll get the doctor right in to check you.  Actually, I'll go ahead and start your IV first.  Were you planning on getting an epidural?"

"Yes?  ... Oh, I'm feeling pressure."

And then my water broke.  All over the room.  Exploded really.

The nurse ran out of the room and ran back with a terrified looking resident.

The poor scared little thing checked me and practically yelled, "She's complete and plus 2."

My nurse was already strapping monitors on me and doing 3 things at once as she leaned over my bed and calmly said "Let's go have your baby.  Grab all her stuff, dad, we're going to move fast."

When I got to the labor room, the nurses there were ready to go.  They looked at my face and laughed "You look pretty good for being complete.  You look calmer than they do," they said, indicating the triage nurses and residents.

I half smiled.  I mean, what else was I supposed to do?

Bless the heart of the on call doctor who was there a moment later.  "This is why I sleep at the hospital.  You ready to go?"  The very relieved resident quickly left the room.

"Umm, yeah.  I need to push.  Now."

And then people were holding my legs and I was having my baby.  Three contractions later, at 6:30 AM, she was on my stomach (well, right after they suctioned the meconium out of her mouth.  Why do my babies have to poop so much?)

They cleaned her up and took her to the warmer to weigh her.  I think people around me were congratulating me, and saying things like "that's the way to do it" and "good job, mom!" but at that point I was kind of in a daze.

"Congratulations, mama, on a healthy 9 pound 5 ounce baby."

Excuse me, say what?

I turned to my husband.  "By the way," I said, "this was not my birth plan."

Tuesday, January 1, 2013

My rambly one word post for 2013

I've been making a lot of jokes lately about how the only thing on my life's list this year was going to be "survive."

With a tiny baby in the house, and all the adjustments we all have to do, that seems like enough of a challenge.  And it's enough of an accomplishment for me to be proud.

But that's not what I want this year to be about.

In my gut, I've known for a while that I want more.  I've seen the person who I'm becoming, and even though sometimes I'm afraid of her, I know that this journey I have found myself on is turning me into someone different than I was before, and I like it.

I almost said better right there.  I almost said "being a mom is making me a better person."  But that's not fair.

The woman that I was: the beloved teacher, the diligent student, the snarky teenage girl, she matters.  She was amazing.  I am proud to have been her.

But at the same time, I know that I'm someone else right now, and that the only way to really survive? Is to keep growing and evolving.

This year, I want to be brave.  I want to learn.  I want to play.  I want to give and serve.  But mostly, I want to keep moving forward, and let myself become who I need to be.  I don't have a specific definition of what that means, and I think that's okay.  

This year, I'm not just going to survive the hard stuff.  I'm going to let the hard stuff do what it's supposed to do.  I'm going to grow and change and not be (too) afraid of that.

So my one word for 2013 is Grow.  Little by little, and sometimes in spurts, it's the only way to get somewhere great.