Ode to my Bellybutton

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Outtie, innie, in-between,

Pierced, tattooed, scarred, and clean.

Lint-catcher, clone-teller,

Peek-a-boo shirt hider,

Even an exit for an evicted gallbladder.

Once just a scar from infancy,

Then a natural bikini accessory.

After three pregnancies, back-to-back,

My dear bellybutton is a sorry old sack.

Three times my innie sprung out: “Chicken’s done!”

With a linea negra just for fun.

Two times it deflated to its original state,

Then I got greedy with the third inflate.

Baby weight gone, I reached my weight goal,

But my bellybutton resembled a saggy butthole.

“What the hell?” I thought, “do you get wrinkle cream,”

“For a snarled bellybutton? Is that even a thing?”

Like a the neck of a t-shirt,

Old, stretched, and worn,

If I slouch so does my button, wrinkled, forlorn.

Vagina, hips, breasts, and sleep,

All anticipated losses of pregnancy.

Hair, feet, and sciatic nerves,

Reasonable offerings for babies birthed.

But a bellybutton? This I didn’t see,

Going the way of the piddle-free sneeze.

Multiple babies grown and birthed,

But, what the fuck, bellybutton? This is absurd.

Whatever. I’m a mom rocking snot-covered T’s,

Non-workout yoga pants and snack-smeared hoodies.

I have stretch marks and stray hairs and c-section scars.

Perineal war wounds and a mom glare that can mar.

My windows are covered in finger and nose prints.

I can breastfeed a baby while matching toddler sprints,

My arms are tired at the end of each day.

My heart is filled beyond words can say.

My life is beautiful and disgusting and blessed.

Oh, what the hell, bellybutton, you tried your best.

 

 

 

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16 Tips and Life Hacks for New Parents

Being a new parent is tough. How do you survive? What should you buy? What should you do? Here are 15 tried-and-true tips to new parents from this mom of three close-in-age kids.

1. Expect the first month to be sleepless. Don’t fight it. Don’t lament it. Just push through it and own it. It gets easier. Those frequent feedings and nighttime interactions are needed, not just for milk supply building and bonding (if you’re breastfeeding), but for stability. You are all your baby has ever known and now he’s in a big new world without any way of comforting himself besides you. (Plus, frequent waking helps prevent SIDS.) This hardship will end, and will soon exist simply as a hazy memory in your distant past.

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2. White baby socks only. A former coworker once advised me to only buy white baby socks because babies always lose one sock and matching tiny foot mits is mind-numbing. Being a know-nothing-know-it-all, I shunned the advice and opted for cute printed toe coverings. I paid the price. There were numerous half-loads of laundry entirely comprised of widowed baby socks. Do you know how many baby socks can fit in a standard clothes washer? A metric f’ing shit-ton, that’s how many. Just get a heap of white baby socks and simplify your life.

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3. Pop a pee pad under Peewee. In the early little-sleep, countless-diapers days, save yourself some nighttime trouble and pop an adhesive-backed absorbent incontinence pad under your infant insomniac. The pad lays flush against the fitted sheet but saves you from stripping Baby’s bed in the middle of the night due to spit-up, blow-out, or soak-through messes. Just peel off the soiled absorbent applique, toss it, and stick on a fresh sheet protector. If your breasts are leaky, consider puting one under you as well.

4. Go old school on burp cloths. Don’t waste money on pricey pretty burp cloths. Go bleachable and absorbant. Grab a few packs of flat-fold cloth diapers. Your wallet and shirts will thank me.

5. Divide to survive. Division of  labor in the home is paramount when children are involved but nighttime is the real battleground. It’s easy for one parent to be saddled with all of the duties if the other has responsibilities outside of the home. This, though, is a marriage killer. Divide duties, share in the suffering, stay together. One parent diapers, one parent feeds. No one escapes infancy unscathed. If there are older children still waking at night, one parent is charged with the elders and one with the baby. The division of labor will strengthen your partnership. Giving all responsibilities to one parent weakens the bond, and you have enough riding against you with your massive life change. You need all the unified strength you can muster.

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6. One carseat per car. If you have two cars, each child should have two car seats (an infant can use one car seat with one car seat base per vehicle.) Playing car seat hokey-pokey is an unnecessary pain in the ass that can easily be avoided. Plus, emergency situations do happen… no one needs to be installing a car seat then.

7. Babywear. Bonding, easy feeding, two free hands, protection from germs and grabby strangers, enhanced core strength, no-bra camouflage… the list of reasons why to babywear is lengthy. Go try out a few carriers via a babywearing group or borrowing from friends, and make the leap.

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8. Shit happens; size up. Size up diapers sooner rather than later. Frequent blowouts often indicate too small diapers. There’s no reason to keep using too small diapers. Many stores offer store credit, if not cash back, for unopened packs of diapers.

9. Press pause on gripe water. Food journal if your breastfed baby seems colicky. Don’t immediately jump to gripe water. There’s often a reason behind fussiness that can be addressed, a shoddy latch or mama’s food intake are two likely suspects. Anything from beans to dairy can be a possible belly bugger for baby. So opt to food journal before you dose your little one.

10. Just buy a Nose Frida. Sucking your baby’s boogers out through a tube…sounds gross. Get over it. It’s not. (You never come into contact with the suctioned snot. I promise.) It’ll actually be the one opportunity your boogery offspring won’t share mucus with you. This is a must-buy.

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11. Medicine cabinet at the ready. Besides the Nose Frida, saline drops or spray, a humidifier, and age-appropriate infant pain reliever should be on hand. Even more importantly, know your pediatrician’s recommended medication dosage for your child because kids are more likely to get sick at 2AM on a holiday weekend than at 11AM on a Tuesday.

12. No formula samples. While pregnant, you’re often sent sample cans of formula. It’s easy to think having them on hand just in case breastfeeding goes awry would be smart. It’s not. Don’t have formula on hand if you plan to breastfeed. If you were going on a life change dietary shift, would you keep your forbidden foods in the house? No because that’s self-sabotage. Breastfeeding may be “natural” but it is hard. With the first baby you’re both wholly new to the endeavor, and even with subsequent children you’re both new that that unique nursing relationship. There’s no shame in formula usage — it’s there for a reason — but if your goal is to breastfeed, don’t enter into the undertaking with your bailout shoot at the ready. If you wind up truly needing formula despite your best efforts, pharmacies exist. Don’t give yourself an out before you even started.

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13. Breastfeed without fear. While baby is in-utero, use that time to amp yourself up, prepare family and friends, do what you need to do to make sure you enter breastfeeding with a “no shame” attitude. Use a cover if you wish… or don’t. But don’t build yourself unnecessary hurdles by pumping to bottle feed in public simply because you’re skittish. Forget being a warrior goddess, be a tough mother. Breastfeed proudly and don’t get in your own way.

14. Get the help you need. PPD/PPA and postpartum PTSD are real. I can personally attest to their existence. I can also proclaim how horrid it is not getting the help you need because you’re so focused on having your shit together. You just created and birthed a human, you’re not sleeping, you create more milk and hormones than cohesive trains of thought, you upended your life and toppled your worldview… your shit is NOT together. It’s not supposed to be together. Maternity leave is not just for physical recovery and bonding but psychological healing. Get counseling if you need it. Get lactation support if you need it. Get a housekeeper if you need it. Take care of you so you can take care of everyone else.

15. Be a partner to your partner. In the chaos of new-parenthood, your romantic relationship is more likely than not to get thoroughly trampled. Make sure that’s temporary by making efforts to repair the damage. Your sex drive may be nonexistent. You may suffer some degree of sexual dysfunction. You will be tired and hormonal and tapped out and touched-out and edgy and covered in bodily fluids that are both yours and not. You may feel unattractive. You may feel sore. Whatever your state, make time for the two of you. Whether it’s crumbling onto the sofa to watch a show at the end of the day, or waking up early to have coffee together. Whatever it is, do it. Make. It. Happen. You will not regret it.

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16. Try to enjoy it. This will be a blur of spit-up, diaper blowouts, sleepy cuddles, precious coos, and endless loads of laundry, but it goes fast. So fast. And your baby is only a baby once. Some moments you appreciate that this is a one-time fleeting arrangement but, in too-short time, you will look back wistfully grappling for puzzle piece memories. Take a breath. Reframe for the positive. And breathe in the baby scent. This will all be over soon.

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What Halloween Taught My 4-year-old: Life as an Allergy Mom

No one wants to be an allergy mom. But you really have no choice in the matter. It’s your life. It’s your child’s life. Deal with it.

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My middle son’s severe peanut allergy became glaringly obvious when he was not even a year old. I was at work a state away, my husband was at home simultaneously trying to send work emails and wrangle our not-yet-3-year-old daughter and our 11-month-old son. Our daughter took that opportunity to act upon our often-ignored requests to share with her brother, and gave him a nice big bite of her PB&J. Hives covered his tiny body — scalp, face, legs, feet, ears — he vomited, his bowels evacuated, Benadryl didn’t touch the reaction. My husband called me at work. I called the pediatrician, rushed home, raced to the pediatrician’s office, and they called it: peanut allergy. Just to be safe, they ordered a blood allergy test. He reacted to 5 of the 7 peanut proteins. He was severely allergic. He also had an egg allergy that he, like our daughter and eventual second son, outgrew by the age of 2.

We were Epi-Pen carrying allergy parents. Crap. And I had once been that snotty know-nothing teen who bemoaned the lack of free peanuts on planes. How inconvenienced I felt to be handed pretzels instead of overly salted legumes! Clearly karma was biting me in the ass. Those same peanuts I now regard with the same level of mortal dread as a rattlesnake.

By 2.5-years-old, “pants explosions” as we called them (sudden, explosive diarrhea) and rash made our middle son’s dairy issues clear. In an odd twist of fate, I had developed not just a milk aversion during his pregnancy but a dairy allergy after his birth. So, I had been the initial dairy-free guinea pig. By the time his dairy problems undeniably presented, I had dairy-free living down pat.

Then came our daughter’s dairy issues. First it was the undereye circles, the belly distention, the moodiness. All foolishly excusable… poor sleep, seasonal allergies, toddler stature, potty-training. Then constipation gave way to belly pain and bowel evacuation. Clearly, dairy was her body’s enemy. We were now 3 for 5 on dairy issues, and The Hubs’ belly was already firing warning shots after cheesy quesadillas and ice cream sundaes.

Then came Halloween. With two kids unable to eat dairy and peanuts regarded as asbestos, the holiday was tricky. We rehashed the “no eating candy until we sort it” rule and showed them examples of what candy to avoid verses choose if presented the option (Snickers = bad, Starburst = good, Milky Way = bad, Swedish Fish = good.) Then we handed them their empty candy collection sacks and off we went — a pint-sized airplane pilot, unicorn-mermaid, and a flamingo — going door-to-door for treats.

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Midway through the venture my middle son looked up at me, unicorn-horn-topped rainbow wig obscuring his blue eyes, and said he didn’t want anymore candy. I asked why. He said, “All I get are peanuts and dairy.” My heart sank. I felt so sad for him. It was true, those two delicious allergens were prevalent in his loot bag. “I still want to trick-or-treat though,” he said. The sadness left and my heart filled with pride.

He happily continued the outing, bouncing up to each door — rainbow wig dancing with each step, green scaly fin-bedecked leggings glinting in the jack-o-lanterns’ light — and chirped, “Trick-or-treat!” With his empty hands clasped in front of him. Every so often, if he saw a bowl contained only safe-for-him treats, he’d grab his bag from me and open it happily for the giver’s goodies. Otherwise he enjoyed the holiday in his own way.

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That night my 4-year-old learned a valuable lesson: how to enjoy a celebration without letting dietary restrictions get in the way. Could he eat all of the candy he received? No. Did he still have fun? You bet! And that is truly what matters. The memories, the fun, the enjoyment… not the food.

Will he remember that pink Starburst a day, a week, a year from now? No. But he sure as heck will recall the pirate who answered the door with a treasure chest of treats or his sister’s teacher (our neighbor) who so warmly invited us into her home. Those are the keepsakes.

As food-centric holidays unfold, this lesson will be invaluable for him. Not everything will be centered around his dietary needs, but that doesn’t mean he can’t enjoy himself. Food is not all there is. The company and the experience mean far more. Enjoy what you can and forget the rest.

I guess he is a pretty smart kid after all.

 

 

Our New Chapter: Bye Bye Babies

Yesterday our youngest transitioned from crib to toddler bed. At 2.25-years old, he was ready. But after spending 7 years pregnant and/or nursing, was I?

We recently began night weaning — ceasing breastfeeding for nighttime wakings — which gave rise to expected nighttime tantrums. Soon we realized he could seamlessly climb not just out of but INTO his crib in the dark. It was time to transition to a toddler bed.

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This shift from crib to bed, closes a chapter. With a 6-, 4.5-, and 2.25-year-old, there are no more cradles or burp cloths, diaper blow-outs or Ergo naps, first steps or puree drool. Instead, there are tantrums and scraped knees, learned letters and growing vocabularies, independently made friends and leaps out of my arms and into the outside world. We enter a new chapter of growing independence — physically, socially, and emotionally — and clarified personality.

Our baby is not a baby anymore. He hasn’t been for over a year. He is a budding human developing daily into his own rough-and-tumble, social-butterfly, adrenalin-fueled, book-loving individual. He’s not just present in the world; he’s experiencing it.

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As I tuck away the memories of the past 7 years of pregnancy and baby-rearing, I feel less sad than I’d expect. I feel fulfilled. Fortunate. Ready.

I thought I’d be a mess. I thought I’d be craving a return to new-parenthood. I’m not. I lived that beautiful life of sleepless survival for the better part of a decade. I grew, birthed, nursed, and nurtured three children through babyhood and ushered them into childhood. What a feat! And yet we’ve only begun.

There was a time I thought I’d never be able to have even one child. Then life happened, and I had three! How fortunate am I? How grateful.

And now I look ahead with eyes wide and heart open for all that will come, glancing at memories from the past with fond recollection, not mournful longing. Knowing much still lies ahead.

There will be tests of patience, battles of wills, joys over victories, tears over losses, daily confusion (for child and parent), and countless memories tucked away for safe keeping. It will be, like all growth journeys, both challenging and beautiful.

Some moments we’ll survive. Some moments we’ll savor. But it will all be worth it.

How to be a Happy Parent: Enjoying the Sh*tshow

My toddler lost his shit on an evening walk. A block from home, he began shrieking but my other two were happily biking along. I raced down the sidewalk — plastic tricycle under my arm as I scurried to launch my novice two-wheel biking daughter from a stop and tried to avoid getting run over by my middle son’s speeding training wheels — while my melting 2-year-old followed 10 feet behind me, still wearing his lime green toddler bike helmet, wailing and moaning at max volume. We were a scene.

I had three choices on that gorgeous evening: 1) get flustered and embarrassed and race everyone home in an anxious whirlwind, 2) get angry and yell a tirade while herding my brood home, 3) laugh at the ridiculousness of our situation and actually find a way to enjoy the calamity. Fortunately for me, I didn’t even realize my other two options. I defaulted to #3. I just laughed. I laughed hard. Because, why not?

A neighbor, fastidiously tending to her garden as I only wish I could, laughed at the sight. Some may have bristled if not barked at the gaffe. Instead, I laughed along with her because we looked entirely ridiculous. I mean, c’mon, what newlywed couple thinks ahead to eventual parenthood and sees that version of the family stroll in their future? None! And that’s why we procreate. Because we’re morons… naive, pompous optimistic morons.

Sometimes, though, all it takes is a little perspective and a diminished give-a-shit to survive our childrens’ childhood with any semblance of sanity or grace. We just need to choose amusement over anxiety.

Sure, I get mad and frustrated and yell… daily. You bet I lose my cool when everyone is asking for something at the same time but no one’s listening and I just. Need. To. Pee! You know I sure as heck have nights I careen into the sofa after a long day, feeling a mixture of mom guilt, emotional exhaustion, and a life-sustaining thirst for a glass of wine.

However, for the most part of most days, I try to laugh. I try to find the humor in the madness, the chaos, the misbehavior, the messes, the drama. I laugh because it is simply absurd what these children dish out. I mean, in what world would one expect to find a sock on a picture frame (unless at a frat house)?

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How is it normal to find a kid pantless in the playroom practicing W.W.E.-style rope dives from the sofa arm while another practices drag performances into a “Bubble Guppies” microphone? When did, “Don’t bite your brother’s bum”, “We don’t wipe our penises on the toilet”, and “No heads in the trashcan” become part of my daily vernacular? What have I done with my life?

Something awesome, that’s what.

I took an existence I once considered stressful and exhausting then added so much stimulus, so many demands, and so much ego-obliterating activity to it that it spun everything I thought I knew about the world and myself upside down. I realized I could choose to be angry, amused, frustrated, appreciative, flustered, calm, or joyful. I could choose the feel judged or I could choose to shamelessly own my mess and invite others to revel in the hilarity right along with me. I may not be in control of the chaos, but I am in control of how I respond to it… how I perceive it.

By shifting my perspective from, control-freak to laughter-prone, it changes everything. It changes the situational trajectory, the bystanders’ responses, and my emotional state. Being quick to laugh is a gift we not only give others but ourselves.

Why get defensive and angry at witnesses when we can let it go and just allow the audacity to amuse us? Soak it in as you would watching the scenario on a sit-com. Emotionally detach. Take a breath. Enjoy it. It’s always more fun to laugh with others anyway.

These are the hardest days, friends, but they are the best days. It’s up to us to find a way to enjoy them.

How Not to Throw a Grenade into Your Spouse’s Day

Ever wonder why your stay-at-home significant other mutters under his/her breath or gets agitated when you delve into work (or hobbies or gaming or ass-sitting) on the weekend or evening? This is free time, right? You work all week. What gives?

You’re right, this is unscheduled time to get accomplished — or simply choose to not do — what didn’t get done during the day or week. You’re right, you do work hard all week so the family can function and live. Yep, this is the case for both of you. This time belongs to both of you.

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If one of you checks out to do work or rest, that firmly places the other parent on duty. So this means, if your work day is extending into the weekend or evening, so is your stay-at-home significant other’s. If you decide to pound out some work without telling him/her first, you’re saddling him/her with kid duty without warning. You’re making an insulting assumption that he/she is willing and available (in all capacities) to drop any and all plans to pick up your slack. But that’s the stay-at-home parent’s job, right?

Let’s make this easier for corporate minds to grasp. It’s the end of the day on Friday. You have been counting down the seconds until end-of-day Friday since 7:00AM Tuesday. Then, just as you log off, an email pings on your phone. Your colleague dipped out — either for a business trip or weekend plans — and dumped a project with a yesterday deadline on your lap. Was there a “please”, “thank you”, or “I owe you one” in the request? Nope, just task list and spreadsheet attached to a blank message. Curse words, right? A steady stream of them pour through your head. That colleague is now officially on your shit list. You have neither the time nor mental energy for this. Guess what? You’re that shit list colleague to your stay-at-home significant other when you wordlessly drop childcare duties on his/her lap.

As the stay-at-home parent, one is officially the default parent. The one immediately assumed to be one duty day and night. The one who must clearly communicate, “I’m not here” or “I need a break” to be temporarily taken out of the line of fire.

This parent is the one perpetually honing the running home to-do list, tending the kids’ schedules (from extracurriculars to school events, playdates to check-ups), preening the family calendar (vacations and extended family get togethers, outings and downtime), and running ongoing inventory for shopping lists, all while noting who’s gone potty or snacked when. Who’s watched too much TV or had a privilege revoked or needs to practice one skill or another. Who’s in a bad mood or who needs cuddles. Who’s in desperate need of one-on-one attention. Who asked for what playdate with whom and where haven’t we played recently. The mental load is an unending, ever-growing burden. It is a significant downside of the stay-at-home parent’s career path. But we all make sacrifices. As a working spouse, though, it’s worth the due diligence to be acutely aware of your partner’s taskload (if not for his/her sake, then your own.)

We all have stuff pop up. And you know what, sometimes we’re all selfish or tired or tapped-out or busy. It happens. We screw up. We take advantage of our significant other sometimes, but don’t be surprised when it bites you in the ass if the bad behavior becomes a pattern. Because it will bite you.

So, don’t want an angry partner or muttered aggressions littering your auditory space? Then don’t throw a grenade into your significant other’s day.

Communicate. Review expectations. Ask if this is a good time. You know, don’t be that shit list colleague. And if you know he/she is toast but you need to just get this one thing done or sit on your ass for a beat, own it and make up for it later. But expect a curse word or two. You can tune that out though, right? I mean, you do have kids after all… the ability to tune out is parental survival.

You can do this. I believe in you.

Mama Tears, Mama Fears: New School Year, New Chapter

It’s that time of year again. Teachers’ classrooms are freshly invigorated with unfamiliar students and crisp bulletinboard decor. Students sport squeaky new shoes and summer tans. Parents sigh a breath of relief, having survived the final days of summer and seek solace in the reprieve from child-wrangling or piecemeal childcare arrangements of summer. Except for me.

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From pool bag to school shoes

I’m the one feeling like the odd duck; the unicorn parent who is not excited for school to begin. At all. Instead of rejoicing my additional freedom and pumpkin spice everything, I’m mourning the end of my favorite season of long days spent outside in the sunshine, soaking in my kids, the sand, the sea, the memories. I know full well my children were equal parts adorable and asshole, but I don’t care. I’m self-loathing, wishing days of togetherness with my demanding darlings instead of hours of respite.

I’m lamenting the return to school year rush and the rigid routine I feel forced, not innately inclined, to institute. I shudder at the coming winter, as if a character from “Game of Thrones.” looking ahead towards an invasion of the zombie-like icy White Walkers: WINTER IS COMING! 

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School days are here

Mostly, though, I’m crying for a closing chapter I desperately wish to pry open. I shed tears recollecting where we used to be, who my children were (even just at summer’s beginning), how fast it all has progressed. I smile recalling memories of exhaustion and cuteness, milestones and regressions, overcome worries and hard-won lessons. I am warmed by gratitude for having been granted this life experience of motherhood, for being willing and able to accept the ass-kick of corporate lay-offs to shove me from cubicle to stay-at-home mom life. I feel a mixture of unsettling uncertainty and hopeful optimism knowing that we are all progressing — as individuals and as a family — towards our future selves.

I know we were where we needed to be, we are where we’re supposed to be, and we’re going where we’re intended. I’m still scared. Still sad. Still hopeful. Still reflective. Still uncertain.

Just as I am optimistic yet unclear as to who my children will be, what their futures will look like, I am similarly hopefully and anxiously unknowing of my own path ahead. Who will I be when I grow up?

Who do I WANT to be?

A mom. I want to be a mom. “You will always be a mom”, people say. But I fear the unknown. The unfamiliarity of mothering older children, teens, adults. I fear not being needed. Not being wanted. Those days will come, as they should (if I’ve done my job right), for raising independent, resilient children is my goal. But I hope they don’t come too soon.

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With my youngest entering preschool, this is my first time having all of my children in school. Grocery trips alone, a walk through Target or DSW or Homegoods unencumbered by tantrumers or snack requests? A quiet morning spent however I choose, whether on a walk, flowing through yoga, sipping coffee with friends, folding laundry, or sitting on my ass in a quiet house? What an unfamiliar circumstance!

I am in for a whole new chapter. More freedom. More time. More ability to uncover who I want to be as opposed to simply who they need me to be. Am I ready for the answer?

The Gift of Low Expectations: How to Survive Any Errand with Kids

This was me 10 minutes before we headed off to the grocery store. Yep, hiding from my bickering, tantruming, antsy, nap-skipping kids. So, how did I survive a grocery store run with all three mischievous minions in tow? Low expectations.

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Don’t get me wrong I love my kids. I mourned when I thought we couldn’t have our own children. I lament their return to school each fall and celebrate our time together. But some days… woo! Some days I hit a point after 500 snack requests, 20 sibling melees, 3 missing sock expeditions (only to find 1 in the toilet, another on the kitchen table, and 1 forever unfound), and an outing gone awry, that I feel the innate need to hide from my offspring. I’ll quietly slip into a room, close the door, and listen with equally anxious anticipation for the sound of incurred injury or approaching footsteps.

And so, yesterday, after I hid from my children for 5 calming minutes, I made the fateful decision to take my crew to the grocery store.  Because what else did I have to lose?

Had my ever-mothering mind gone berserk? Likely. However, I was armed with something so powerfully self-preserving that no childish onslaughts could undo me: a low bar.

That’s right. I entered the afternoon grocery run fully aware of my fate. I had low expectations, so diminished that simply surviving the errand would stand as a win. This would be a shit show. I owned it.

We shuffled through pre-leaving routine: pottying, pants finding, sock hunting, shoe retrieving, shoe fixing and re-fixing (because despite having only two feet, my 4-year-old can put his shoes on the incorrect feet 6 times in a row), and finally leaving. As I waited for my eldest to get buckled, I texted my dear fellow mom friend and told her of my expectation that my middle son would lose cart privileges before we ever left the produce section. My inkling that my eldest would publicly release a (understandable) fury of frustration upon her irksome younger brothers. My awareness that pushing my toddler in the shopping cart would be akin to maneuvering a rabid kleptomaniacal octopus through narrow aisles of glass jars and delicate produce. This would be a disaster. I knew it. I felt it in my bones. I didn’t dread it. I didn’t fear it. My shame had been whittled down by 6 years of parenthood. I had nothing left to lose but my patience. Her knowing response: “Good luck.”

And so we went. And so the trip descended into chaotic mayhem, with my uncoordinated 6-year-old attempting to simultaneously read a book and walk through the wine section, my 4-year-old hanging in a backbend off of the side of the cart despite my constant reminders that he shouldn’t because his head would get smushed, and my 2-year-old releasing random shrill shrieks just for the hell of it.

At one point, my 6-year-old took to poking plastic bags of bread “because it’s squishy” as my 2-year-old attempted to throw his shoes out of the cart. Then, as I turned to pick up the one jar I needed in the aisle, my 6- and 4-year-olds took off down the pasta aisle in a foot race. Yes, full-on discombobulated running complete with jabbing chicken wing elbows down the grocery aisle of dried noodle and glass-encased marinara. Who does that? Are they new here?

Then, as we reached the furthest back portion of the store: “Need pee-pee! Potty!” Shouts my potty-training 2-year-old. So we haul ass to the front of the store. Every few feet I rerun the kid count: 1-2-3, 1-2… where’s 3? “We’re not buying Fritos. Better catch up or find a new family!” Then we hit a slow moving herd with grandma pushing the shopping cart. They were the hair-ball to the shower drain. As I envisioned a deluge of toddler pee pouring from the shopping cart, I bobbed and weaved pushing my car-shaped cart through the clog, leaving my older two to either follow or flounder: “Better keep up! Your brother has to pee!” I yelled back to them.

We made it. He peed. In the potty. Then there was a meltdown over the hand dryer, but that’s normal. Well, our normal.

Back to the cart we returned. We finished or shopping, skidding into a register lane with the grace of a three-legged water buffalo. There were candy grabs, sibling squabbles, fussing, and “Are we done yet?”s, but we survived. I loaded the minivan and as I shut the trunk door, I felt accomplished. I survived the shit show. I was still smiling. I was certainly laughing. All thanks to my low expectations.

Cocoons for Babies: That’s a Thing?

I’ve recently encountered a trend: cocoons for babies. Who knew? The practice recommends that parents create a quiet, soothing womb-like environment for their newborns in order to offer a smoother adjustment for Baby into the world and provide a safe haven from the daily din.

Dimmed lights, calm energy, cozy decor, serenity, hush. A baby cocoon. How precious! How loving! How utterly unattainable for any child but a firstborn in an affluent home.

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Now, I love the concept of preparing a loving, welcoming, unobtrusive environment for the baby-to-be. The neutral decor, the soft fabrics, the gentle atmosphere… how sweet! The planner in me adores the meticulous research and purchasing, arranging and staging that would be entailed. The 6-years ago first-time parent in me sees the beauty and seeming prospect, the adoration- and protection-based desire and demand to create such a space for the anticipated bundle. The mother-of-three in me shudders at the thought of feeling pressured to somehow maintain any sense of zen tranquility in my bustling abode of child chaos. I can only imagine the effort it’d take to silence my entire herd for one morning. It’d be more feasible to ship them off for the baby’s infancy.

Then, I think of myself and my friends with multiple children. Their youngest child — like my own third child — entered into a world of noisy siblings, bright lights, and pinging toys. Yet that youngest child (barring any special needs) is the happiest, most well-adjusted, and adaptable of the bunch!

Babies are precious and beautiful. Babies are noisy and exhausting, messy and stressful, demanding and resilient. As any pediatrician will tell you, babies are tougher than we think. (Have you ever seen an Apgar test conducted or seen a baby birthed vaginally? Then you know they’re sturdy buggers.)

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Do I think putting effort into spinning a warm environment for your cherished offspring is ill-advised? Not entirely. Placing love and excitement, care and appreciation into your baby preparation does nothing but positive things for all involved. If it feels right to you, do it! However, if you’re feeling overwhelmed by the task, don’t do it. Eventually your child will regularly be present in the world and, well, the world is not womb-like.

Do I think everyone has the means to create this soothing space? Even with upcycling hacks and thrift store finds, no. Not everyone has the economic, spatial, environmental, or emotional ability to create a womb-like home. Some can, and that’s wonderful, but it in no way puts those children raised outside of the cocoon at a disadvantage.

Do I think creating a quiet, serene home gives the child a leg up? If anything, I’d argue the opposite. I know far more children raised in noisy, stimulus-filled homes who are happier and better adapted to the outside world than those who easily adjusted from quiet, low-stimulus homes to the chattering world. A cocoon is not the only way to ensure a baby feels loved and secure. And, heck, the womb is not silent. There are plenty of stimuli — from stomach churning and inhalation, mom’s road rage shouting and shower singing, Dad’s yelling at the TV and sibling tantruming. Baby has already heard the outside world before ever entering it. Life is loud, inside and out.

Do I think it’s feasible to maintain such an environment? As a mom of three close-in-age children, my response: hahahahahahahahaha… no. Absolutely not. Not in any way. Nope. It’s a lovely gesture rooted in the best and purest intentions of sheltering one’s cherished child from the overwhelming world. The desire, effort, and act are nothing but sweet and commendable. However, making a womb-like home for your child is not the only way to create a safe space for your little one. Your loving arms and healing kisses, you’ll soon find, will serve as such. You needn’t paint the walls “Morning Mist” and hush everyone in your home to make Baby feel loved. Just love Baby, that’s all.

Do I think feeling compelled to maintain a hushed, serene cocoon is problematic? Somewhat. If the endeavor is to envelope the child in love and comfort, beautiful! However, any parent is soon to discover that babies are not quiet or serene… and neither is the world. Does that mean the child should fall asleep to prerecorded audio of Tokyo Street sounds or NYC at rush hour? No. I simply think the pressure to create unnatural, inorganic sensory white space in a bright and loud world is an unattainable goal for parents — especially first-time parents — who are about to enter the wholly noisy, exhausting, stressful, life-upending, relationship-testing, goal-shifting, painful, emotional, rewarding, confusing, ego-obliterating, priceless gift of parenthood. Yet, if the womb-like space — either in creation or practice — enables the parents to better cope with the monumental shift of parenthood, proves agreeable to the baby, and is easily and stresslessly maintained, by all means do it! Just don’t stress yourself — or those dwelling with you — trying to make your home, your life, your world something that it’s not.

You are your child’s sanctuary. Your arms are her safe place. Your breath and heartbeat are his lullabye. You are all the comfort your child needs.

Love your baby. Forget the rest.

I Was Doing Yoga All Wrong: 7 Things Daily Yoga Taught Me

As a Type-A mom of three close-in-age kids, I push myself. A lot. With that mindset, I began my yoga journey with limited self-patience, clear goals, and an aspirational Pinterest board full of bendy yoga poses. I gave myself no room for leniency… I had to hit each pose as deeply as possible every time. I had to have a straight-line progression. I had to become pliable like one of the seasoned, limber veteran yogis… but on my own timeline.

I was rigid yet striving for flexibility. I had it all wrong. I’m still learning.

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1) Force vs. Push. “Feel the burn!” “Pain is weakness leaving the body!” You know the pain-centric power mantras.  I brought them with me into my yoga practices, forcing myself on myself. However, I learned quickly that yoga isn’t about forcing, it isn’t a “pain is gain” endeavor. It’s simply about pushing myself purposefully but relenting when the body indicates its limit. (And the body’s limits are not always what I’d like them to be.) I learned that forcing my body could — and did — cause injury which only distances me from my goals. Pushing, though, would get me closer to my goals, albeit at a potentially slower pace than I might like. I had to accept the length of the journey and push, not force, myself along my path.

2) Listen. With a chattering mind and a constantly whirring mental to-do list, as well as three vocal children, life demands I do a lot of listening. But am I always really listening? Yoga is about listening to my body, my thoughts — even when I’m striving for meditative mental silence –, my surroundings. Yoga is about piecing all of the noise together and honoring it all.

3) It’s OK to Fall.  Falling. What an ego bruise, right? It’d be great to hit a perfect tree pose with unending balance every time, just like it’d be wonderful to go a whole day parenting perfectly. That’s not reality. We’re human. We fall, and that’s ok. It’s not a sign of inferiority or failure. It’s simply reality. When we fall we just laugh and get back up. We don’t lament the tumble. We don’t seek to blame others. We don’t quit and curse the practice. We just own it and try again, our self-worth still beautifully in tact.

4) Ability is Fluid. My ability today is not the same as yesterday or tomorrow. I may have bent into a wheel yesterday but I can’t hit anything beyond a bridge pose today. Similarly, perhaps I was a fountain of glowing maternal love yesterday but today I am a grumbling mass of exhaustion. Tomorrow I might be limber and patient yet again… or not. Our bodies, our minds, our lives are constantly changing. Variables shift. We can’t expect to be able to achieve the same accomplishments each day. We can only try our best with the ability we have today.

5) Inspiration not Competition. That mom with the perfect hair or the enviable physique or the tidy home or the well-behaved kids or the ideal seeming life. Instead of looking to her with a lens of competition, look to her as inspiration. The same goes for yoga. In yoga, we don’t look towards one another to judge or compare but for inspiration. Someone hits a pose deeper than you, someone can’t quite bend just as thoroughly as you. So what? Our circumstances, bodies, experiences, and lives are entirely different. We are here to serve as inspiration only.

6) Release and let go. With a mind that can’t hold onto names but has a knack for clinging to guilt, yoga has wonderfully taught me the beauty of letting go. Welcome in the positive and release what no longer serves me. Release… it feels so good. So why is it so hard to do?

7) Thank yourself. We thank friends, colleagues, waitstaff, family, troops, deities even, but so rarely ourselves. But we should thank ourselves. If we do something good for ourselves, we should thank ourselves. We deserve the same kindness we extend to others. We’re worth it.