Happy Second Birthday, Blog!

Two years I’ve been blogging, now. So much has changed in that time. My life, my children, my eating, my friends, my path. Let’s delve into some of the transition and transformation, shall we?

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When I first started the blog, I had two preschoolers and a baby at home. Now, I have two preschoolers and a first grader. For the first time in seven years I am neither pregnant nor raising a baby!

Two years ago, I was a dairy-allergic omnivore who proudly pumped three times daily in order to donate breastmilk. Now — still dairy allergic — I eat a plant-based, gluten-free diet, and my former true omnivore husband has since become a pescatarian like our daughter. I am no longer pumping or a 24-hour boob buffet, but I am nursing my littlest 2-3 times daily, mainly for comfort in the morning, rest time, and before bed.

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Back when the blog was new, we used to have preschool in the morning, rest time, a playdate, dinner, then bath and bedtime. I had little flexibility to volunteer at my childrens’ school or do more than a brief outing away from my littlest, as I was on 24/7 boob duty. Plus, I was exhausted. The way I knew I’d somehow managed some REM sleep the night before was if I actually managed to properly brew my morning tea. Now, all three kids generally sleep through the night in their own rooms.

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Though our weekday schedule is a bit more chaotic these days, I am freer than I once was. I have taken on and given myself more duties over the past two years. I volunteer at my daughter’s school every-other week or so and plan most of my middle son’s class parties, which is funny because though I am a planner I do not consider myself much of a party planner. I lead one of the two bi-weekly mom meet-ups for my sons’ school, which is a gathering I only developed this year. Though small, it has created a lovely community and outlet for shared knowledge. I often have coffee once a week with a cherished friend, volunteer weekly as an ambassador at a yoga studio, and somehow grocery shop, cook, clean, and meal plan between school drop-offs and pick-ups.

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No longer the baby he was when this blog began, my youngest attends preschool two mornings each week. My middle son goes four mornings, whereas two years ago he only attended two days per week, They both have individual time with my mom on Wednesdays, which is a beautiful thing. Meanwhile, my eldest is in full-day school five days a week as opposed to her old schedule of four mornings at preschool. After we pick up my eldest from school, we make a quick jaunt to the playground and back home for homework time. Next comes dinner and extracurrilculars in some frenzied order.

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Two years ago, my middle son enjoyed gymnastics and swim classes at the community center. Now he is finishing up his current Tae Kwon Do session in favor of his much preferred figure skating lessons. He loves skating, or as he calls it: “dancing on the ice!”

Two years ago my daughter was doing ballet and swim classes at the community center. She now enjoys her Tae Kwon Do classes, with a long-range goal of earning her black belt, and cherishes her weekly yoga classes at a local coffee shop. She wants to take up piano but I have yet to wiggle that into the schedule and budget.

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Back when I started this blog, my life revolved around food: meal planning, grocery shopping, cooking, pumping for donation, breastfeeding, helping others navigate nursing hurdles. I desperately wanted to continue my coursework to become an International Board Certified Lactation Consultant (IBCLC.) I have since realized that the IBCLC goal is a distant if not wishful aspiration. The 1,000 patient hours alone that I would need to complete — in addition to further course requirements — before I even sit for the certification exam are not attainable for me in the foreseeable future, at least not considering my personal family priorities and preferences. Instead, life has shifted me towards yoga.

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Two years ago my exercise mindset was all about shedding weight and gaining muscle. A very: “Push! Push! Push! No pain no gain!” mentality. I was unforgiving of myself and expected nothing but forward momentum. Jillian Michael’s “30-Day Shred” and PiYo were my jam, as I could do them at home during naptimes. Then, I started yoga via Boho Beautiful on YouTube in late 2016. It sparked a change in me that has extended into all parts of my life.

I have moved from doing daily at-home YouTube-lead yoga to doing self-lead in-home daily yoga and in-studio yoga 2-3 times per week. A favorite yoga teacher-turned-friend spurred me to become a yoga ambassador (story here) with the goal of entering yoga teacher training in the fall. I, then, plan to earn my kids yoga instruction certification. I never would’ve suspected this shift two years ago but I look in all directions now and love it wholeheartedly.

The person I’ve become and who I am becoming, my winding life path, the people I’ve encountered and welcomed into my life, the relationships that have deepened and those that have passed, my children’s development and growth as unique individuals, my ever-strengthening partnership with my husband… all of it is different. All of it is good.

Considering how much in my life has changed over the last two years, I cannot imagine what I’ll be writing two years from now. Thank you for following me on my journey! Tag along for the ride, surviving and savoring parenthood one day at a time.

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Three Things I Learned from My Kids

Being a parent, it isn’t always about what we teach our kids. It’s often about what they teach us. About the world, life, ourselves, happiness. They may be small, our needy germ-covered offspring, but they are wise in that, “I may eat Playdough and lick trashcans, but I know how to be truly happy” kind of way that only dogs and children master.

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1) Wonder. As my 2.5-year-old youngest child and I attempted to complete an errand at a local craft store — frequent tantrums firing and fizzling like bottle rockets on the 4th of July — I experienced the store through his eyes. THE WONDER!

“Look, Mommy!” A wall of model vehicles towered above him. “So many colors!” He exclaimed, walking among the silk flowers. “One more second, Mommy!” He pleaded as he gazed in awe at the miniature fairy house decor. “Mommy, I hold your hand. Come over here!” Basket upon basket of vibrantly hued faux fruit. This wasn’t just an errand for him; this place was a marvel.

He ooo’ed as we walked past the bike store, ahh’ed as we strolled past flower displays in the pharmacy, stopped short in amazement as a suped-up pick-up truck idled outside of Whole Foods. An errand was more than an errand because his world was full of wonder. In turn, the world became more beautiful and vibrant for me too.

Since parenting three children, I find myself seeking out the beauty, the wonder, the “wow” in the ordinary. The heart-shaped leaf on the driveway. The massive construction vehicles as I sit in traffic. The budding trees as I walk down the sidewalk. The colors in the produce section. The world is amazing if we choose to see it. My children have reminded me how.

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2) Play. As a stay-at-home mom of three young kids, I play every day. What a gift! Walking down the sidewalk, I crouch down with my littles and hop over cracks. On the playground, I bounce with them on the seesaw. At home, I do silly voices while reading and chase them in the cul-de-sac. We bring snack time outside. We play “Go Fish”, “Connect Four”, and “Guess Who?” I become a human rocket launching my littlest into the air by way of my lifting legs.

Life is more fun when we play. My kids help remind me to not take myself and my life so seriously. They reintroduced me to the beauty and necessity of play. With play we are more active, vibrant, joyful, and full of life. There’s no better way to be. If you’re not full of life, what are you full of?

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3) Shift. Priorities, attention, schedule, route, perspective, goals, plans, outfit choices… my kids have required and taught me to shift often and in countless ways.

What childless me thought I would do or say as a parent has shifted. My priorities have greatly shifted. What used to be my plan a year ago has shifted. Who I used to be has shifted. How I eat has shifted. My hobbies have shifted. How I see and engage with the world has shifted. My body has shifted. My tolerance for others’ crap has shifted. And that’s OK, no matter what “Jenny from the Block” may proclaim. Shifting is good.

I’m stuck in a long check-out line, I shift my attention and find ways to distract the kids: “Where’s the color blue? Do you see a balloon? How many lights can you find?”

I’m in traffic and I decide to downshift my emotions, releasing my plans and accept that, “what will be will be.” I shift my focus away from the brake lights and my filling bladder to any surrounding fun I can find. “Look at that loader, kids! What do you think is in that box truck? Look how pretty the sky is! Who wants a car dance party?”

I shift to survive. I shift to keep the peace. I shift to feel peace. To be happy.

A Family First

This year is the first year we could all go sledding. All five of us. What a feat!

For the first time in nearly eight years, I finally wasn’t pregnant or nursing a newborn. No one was too little to enjoy careening down a snow-covered incline. We could all do it together. This was new territory.

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All three kids — 2.5, nearly-5, and 6.5 years old — successfully bundled and buttoned in layers to ward against the March snow. The Hubs and I suited up — ready to herd — and off we all went. Trekking through winter’s last hoorah on our way to the neighborhood sledding spot.

Two sleds, three kids, a few tantrums, and a good 20 minutes later, we made it. Up and down, giggles and snowballs. It was a time you store away with easy accessibility in your mind. The kind of recollection you revisit like an old slideshow, smiling at the mental memory reel. A treasure.

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This excursion was the doorway into our new chapter. One of slightly more freedom. More opportunity for new experiences and adventure. More cohesiveness as opposed to divide-and-conquer.

This year we break away from 10 years of trying to conceive, pregnancy, and babies. No more naps or diaper bag, onesies or highchair, bibs or booties. The baby gates are still in use, but the Pack-and-Play is long stowed away. We are in a different place this year.

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And I’m not as sad as I thought I’d be. I feel ready. Open. Welcoming to the new life season unfolding before us.

It will be a good one. I know it.

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.

 

 

 

Real Life: Wednesday Absurdity

We had 3 kids in 4 years. Now, with our offspring aged 2, 4.5, and 6 years, life is — well — humorously absurd. They say you either laugh or you cry. We laugh. A lot.

These tree scenarios aptly described our run-of-the-mill Wednesday evening.

**My 2-year-old tantruming beside me at the dinner table seething that he simultaneously does and does not want eat his dinner… because 2-years old.**
Me: Remember when a kid fussing and crying used to stress us out?
The Hubs: **laughing** Yeah. Now it’s just the background noise of our daily life.
———————-
**The 2-year-old squat-runs pantsless into the dining room holding his bum**
Me: NO POOPING IN THE DINING ROOM!
2-year-old: Bwahhhhhh!!! I wanna poop in dining room!
———————
4-year-old: What’s N + N + a banana?
Me: **staring blankly wondering how my life got so absurd**
4-year-old: 5

Sooo… yeah. That’s Wednesday in our house.

Snapshots of SAHM Life

Being a stay-at-home mom is draining and priceless, stressful and fun-filled, chaotic and routine. It’s overwhelming and unglamorous, messy and lonely, but it’s all I ever wanted… to spend my days raising my children and experiencing their days, their fleeting childhoods. To be there.

Still, days as a stay-at-home mom often involve lots of this.

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Caffeination on the go

A bit of this.

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Multi-tasking (with now-cold caffeine)

Too much of this.

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Toy mayhem

And always this.

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The insurmountable and ever-present, Mt. Laundry

Your days may also involve this.

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Grocery shopping and babywearing

Some of this.

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Nursing

And a bit of this.

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Playdate fun

Then, of course, there’s this.

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Mid-errand tantrums

This.

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Bizarre mishaps

A lot of this.

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In-cart public meltdown and sibling brawl

And, what day would be complete without a touch of this?

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Self-dressing drama

After all of that, you get this.

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Quirky cuddles

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Family time

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Simple fun times

Because you’re there for it all, you also get to witness this.

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Proud parenting moments

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Proof of your hard work shining through

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Love between your children

And this.

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Hard-won skills blossoming

And it’s all worth it. All of it.

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Next Year will be Entirely Different

“This year will be tough,” I thought to myself, anticipating the summer beach trips at my mom’s beloved but entirely toddler-unfriendly beach house, “but next year… just wait until next year!” The glass-topped tables, the readily accessible stairs, the breakable lamps attached to tuggable cords, the vulnerable trinkets, the vertical blinds, the unlatched cabinets, the massive canvas painting hung within swatting distance above the sofa, the media console with an array of enticing buttons… so much to safeguard from my bumbling tike. But being at the beach makes it all worthwhile.

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Summer 2016

I envisioned my long, memory-filled, sand-dusted, sun-soaked days wrangling my kindergartener and preschooler while simultaneously chasing my toddler on the beach, at the pool, on the playground, and then at the beach house. I recounted the strain of having no childproofed place I can safely place my littlest so that I can cook dinner, pack the beach cooler, make snacks, go to the bathroom, or just sit for a beat. I remembered how I woke up every day at 6AM on vacation and popped him — wailing — into the pack-and-play so that I could wearily pump, set out breakfasts, and pack for the day’s beach excursion before the rest of the house awoke. I remembered the sinking dread I felt at the prediction of a rainstorm that would keep us trapped inside.

This year, I’ll have to wean from pumping before we take our trips and I’ll have to wear him whenever we’re in the house, because a pack-and-play will no longer stand as an impeding obstacle to my athletic tot. I will be on duty from wake-up to bedtime. I will enjoy it. I will treasure it. I will end the season with a multitude of photos and a plethora of cherished memories. I will be exhausted in the best and most depleting way. “Just push through this year,” I reassured myself, “next year will be entirely different.”

Then it struck me: next year will be entirely different. It will be easier, but next year they’ll all be older. My herd will be 7, 5, and 3. 7… 7-years old! The better part of a decade? And my middle son a burgeoning kindergartener?? No more baby? No more toddler? Tears welled. My throat grew tight. They’re growing too fast! Make it stop!

Sure, life will still be loud and chaotic, because that is our familial heartbeat. Vacations will still be life relocated. I will still fight the descent into anarchy by planning and packing, scheduling and routine. My “vacation” will happen each night during the two hours between the kids’ bedtime and my own. I will, no doubt, still referee and soothe, corral and amuse, but I won’t be needed in that primal way. That exhausting, rewarding, wholly taxing manner that both fills the soul and drains all mental capacity.

And with that I stopped coaching myself to “just push through this year” but, instead, to savor it. Because next year will be entirely different.

I Wonder What Outsiders Think

I can only imagine what I look like to outsiders. Every day at kindergarten pick-up, my two boys run and play on the school lawn. There, beneath a shedding oak tree surrounded by grass and partially encircled by a well-tended flowerbed, the younger siblings of the school’s students play as we await the daily exodus.

The preschoolers and toddlers run in the shady grass, sharing toys and digging with sticks in the dirt. Meanwhile, moms look on from the sidewalk, chatting about extracurricular activities and school happenings.

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Then there’s me. I bob from one mom group to another uttering perhaps one maybe two complete sentences before racing to fish acorns from my 1-year-old’s mouth (trying not to get bitten in the process and swiping his back-up acorns from his soil-smothered mitts), fetching him from the flowerbed as he attempts to hurl a rock at the school building, redirecting him when he acts like a chinchilla and hurls fistfuls of dirt over himself as if taking a dust bath, prying him off of a bike left locked to the metal bike rack, reminding him not to tackle bigger kids, correcting him when he uses the metal flagpole as his own personal xylophone. Meanwhile, my 3.5-year-old scampers happily with the others, playing tag or airplanes in the sun.

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Every day I leave pick-up feeling like a haphazard bulletin board. Ideas and phrases, reminders and memories tacked at random but none of it illustrating a cohesive work. It’s simply an organized mess. Harnessed chaos.

And such is my life with three kids 5 and under. It’s a mess. It’s chaos. It’s exhausting. It’s mine.

One day I’ll be able to speak in complete sentences. One day life will be calm.

Until then, I will run and chase and scold and laugh and save and redirect, all while trying to pretend I am still capable of adult conversation. I will live this mayhem — exhausted and fulfilled — every day I’m able.

Who cares what outsiders think? I hope they laugh. I do.

Is Having Three Kids That Hard?

“How is it having three kids?” It’s a question people usually ask as they attempt to camouflage their shock (and occasional muted horror) upon learning I have three kids under 5. Honestly, it has its moments — many of them… daily — but it truly is not as anxious and stressful a time as the life-bending, mind-spinning, beautiful upheaval of having your first child. It’s also not as ego-shredding as the inevitable chaos and calamity of shifting to having two children.

With your third child, very little is new. Diaper rash: been there. Growth spurts and potty-training: lived it. Weird, fun, and loathsome phases: check! It’s all familiar. You know all of the run-of-the-mill childhood viruses — Roseola, Coxsackie, Fifth’s Disease — and can generally tell the difference between allergies, teething, and a cold. Though, by your third child, noses are like butts: you wipe others’ more frequently than your own on a daily basis.

By the time you have the third kid, it takes a lot to rile you. Baby licks a trashcan: immune system boost! Baby refuses baby food: temporary cost savings… you know he won’t go to college exclusively breast/formula fed. Baby gnaws on the toy that the kid with the nasal deluge just licked: ehh, you’ve got a Nose FrIda and saline spray. Baby is slow to walk: score… a temporary reprieve from the eventual mayhem. Baby pops a dried leaf in his mouth: ruffage! 

With the third child you’ve learned that child development and parenting books are generalizations, not Bibles or fodder for competition. You’ve perfected your response to unsavory unsolicited parenting commentaries. You’ve realized babies are heartier than you’d suspect. You’ve mastered the death glare and become immune to the public tantrum. Essentially, your give-a-shit has been lowered mightily to a nice, comfy level.

You’re calmer and more knowledgeable, harried and constantly covered in someone else’s bodily functions, but you’re cool with it. Chaos is your comfort zone.

You know that everything — every phase, stage, achievement, and struggle — is temporary. You learn to savor the good and trust that the bad will be but a memory in due time.

Having three kids is challenging but it has its perks. I wouldn’t trade it for the world (or a solid night of uninterrupted sleep.)

 

 

 

Sun, Music & Memories

After weeks of rain, the sun peeked through today and allowed us a preview of summer bliss. We attended our much-loved local summer concert series. We danced outside in the evening sun to live music, soaking in the light and memories.

#1 Twirling to the Music

#1 Twirling to the Music

Watching #1 and #2 twirl and run among the other children, I reflected on how last year #1 and #2 were smaller and less coordinated, apple-cheeked 2- and nearly-4-year-olds. How #3 was but a growing expectation in my rounded belly. How at the end of the concert series, #3 was a brand new addition with little infant chicken legs peaking out from the baby carrier.

I recalled how much more challenging things were with a newborn and two preschoolers as I recovered from a c-section, but how much fun we had. I realized how fast the time had spun by, and knew this year would only go faster.

So, I silenced my mind and allowed myself to simply be, to appreciate, to live our present joyful nuttiness. What a beautiful life!