Magic Moments

Long before Calvin, when I simply daydreamed about having a husband and baby of my own, I pictured these sweet moments in my head. Maybe it’s media, maybe it’s stories passed down by family, but these special moments I envisioned were largely firsts: first smile, first word, first steps. I saw these milestones as tearful, sweet moments of laughter and celebration, just like the movies. Last weekend, we took Cal to the beach for the first time. I imagined him playing tirelessly in the sand, giggling uncontrollably as the waves reaches his toes, and soaking in the sun and sight with wonder and awe. That is not what happened.

 

Preparing for most any possible scenario, I packed and umbrella and towels and snacks and water and sunscreen and hats and wardrobe changes and toys and swim diapers and regular diapers and three different types of wipes. I fed him a big breakfast, and we hit the road. We arrived, parked, and had to carry the bags and towels and umbrella and bucket and baby out to the sand. Then it was a good five minutes of “What now?” Should the umbrella go up first? Or do we lay out our towels? The baby definitely needed sunscreen, but we’d already put him in the sand. As I rubbed the sunscreen and sand into his soft skin, he was understandably unhappy. Then the umbrella fell. I turned to help. Then Calvin rubbed sand and sunscreen in his eye. He was crying. We were frustrated. This was a mistake. After cleaning and comforting Cal and making sure our belongings were secured, we ventured to the water. This was sure to turn things around. He loves baths, so this was sure to be great. I quickly realized that baths aren’t cold and don’t have waves or salt. The ocean is definitely not a bath, and he noticed right away. As I carried my crying baby back to our spot in the sand, I hoped he’d at least take a bottle and calm down a bit. Thankfully, he did, so we sat under an umbrella and gave him snacks for the next hour. Then Joe packed the bags and disassembled the umbrella as I rinsed Calvin in fresh water and changed him into warm clothes. Then we loaded the car up with junk and with sand and with crumbs and ventured home. No giggling, no playing, no wonder, no awe.

 

Most of Calvin’s firsts have not been what we expected. His first word was what? We really don’t know. He clearly said “Mama” at only a few weeks old when he would get upset, but it had no meaning to him. He didn’t know I was “Mama.” He’s made lots of word-like sounds since then, but which ones are technically words? All of them? The ones that have meaning to him? We weren’t sure when to count the first time he rolled over either. He kind of fell into it a few times. When was it intentional? Hard to say. His first smile? Also, unclear. He made faces that looked like smiles early on, but most were more like yawns. How can we tell when he smiled out of joy for the first time? He hasn’t taken his first steps yet, and least I don’t think he has. He let’s go of furniture while standing and sometimes sort of teeters or toddles once before falling. His development seems consistently on track, and that is what ultimately matters, but these milestones I pictured for so long have been far from the images in my head. We celebrate his progress and continue to expose him to new things, but these Hallmark moments just aren’t where we expected. They’re not in his milestones.

 

The moments of overwhelming joy, the kind of joy that moves us to tears, are surprisingly found in much simpler circumstances. For instance, last night, Calvin was taking a Tupperware container for a ride around the house in his little red wagon. His highchair was in his path, so he stopped pushing the wagon, moved the highchair, and pushed the wagon through the opening he’d created. Then he put the highchair back where it goes! This is probably a mundane, boring, unnoticeable scene to most, but to us, it was pure magic. He was just so determined and smart and responsible and considerate, and he absolutely amazed us. These are the moments that feel like my daydreams. They exist. They’re real. They’re just not what I expected, like when I asked him where his head was, and he just knew! I don’t know how he knew, but he did! So, I encourage you to embrace these moments. Let yourself really stop what you’re doing and feel the warmth and power these little scenes have to offer. I’m confused about pretty much everything in life, but I feel confident that these moments are what it’s all about. Yours will look different from mine, and they’ll certainly look different than your imagination, but they exist, and they are just as special.

Sickation Days

I was hit hard with an intense cold last weekend. It’s the third time since Cal’s arrival that I’ve been sick enough that Joe’s quarantined me in our bedroom so I won’t infect the rest of the family. The first time I had mono and was out for a week. Each quarantine has included Kleenex, NyQuil, OJ, Vick’s, and all that good stuff. Sounds miserable, right? Days of sniffling, sneezing, coughing, and not being able to see your husband and baby? Well, I’m not particularly proud to admit it, but I didn’t actually hate it. The days also included lots of sleep and Netflix and ice cream and sweet, sweet silence.

 

I love spending time with my family. Ninety percent of the time there’s nothing I’d rather do. However, about two percent of the time, I want to be with friends, laughing and reliving my youth (hence Vegas), and the other eight percent of the time, I just want to be alone. I want to watch shows my husband won’t like and eat dessert without sharing and finish a thought uninterrupted, but I just don’t have it in me to say, “Hey, the baby is yours tonight. I’m going to go watch Bravo in bed with Ben & Jerry. Night, guys!” I don’t really like the thought of them potentially having fun out there without me, and I can’t relax knowing Joe is doing dinner and bath and bedtime on his own while I do nothing. But being sick? It takes away all of that guilt. I need to rest. I need to keep my family healthy. I’m doing my part right here in bed. It’s what’s best. When else can I say that?

 

I feel like I came out of my most recent cold with a new-found optimism, an outlook on life that embraces times that seem difficult or sad or icky. There always has to be a silver lining, a greater purpose, right? I think we have to believe that in order to feel joy. In being sick, I learned the value of alone time. Last night, Calvin had an upset tummy. We had to clean him up and change his sheets and make a bottle and rock him and comfort him until nearly 2:00 AM. Knowing I had a 5:00 AM alarm, I was initially frustrated. However, as I rocked him, I realized how big he felt in my arms and how his legs dangled over the side of our glider. I remembered a time, one that feels like last week and years ago all at once, a time when his whole little body fit cradled in my arms. It occurred to me that he’ll never fit in my arms that way again but also that he’ll never fit in my arms this way again. It won’t be long until we don’t fit in that glider together at all. It’ll feel sudden when he doesn’t want me to rock him back to sleep anymore, so I held him closer, and I embraced the 1:00AM snuggle. I wrapped my arms around him and my heart around the moment.

 

It’s not always going to be easy, and it may sometimes not be possible, but I am committing myself to looking for these silver linings, these hidden blessings in seemingly everyday frustrations. It may be a moment to myself or a sweet baby snuggle, but if I can just look for something to celebrate, something for which I can give gratitude in every obstacle, I know I can help fill my heart and my house with joy. And that’s what my family deserves, a home filled with thankfulness and celebration every day, no matter what.

 

So, even though sometimes we just need to cry or scream or take and extra long bath, I encourage you, Mama, take a sickation day, laugh when the baby joyfully splashes in the dog’s water bowl, be grateful you have a home even when it requires seemingly constant repairs, enjoy your ugly, outdated, but oh-so-comfy couch, and fill your heart with as many happy memories as it can hold. I believe our families will thank us.

What Happens While Mama’s in Vegas…

Last week I did something I said I’d never do as a mom (you can add it to the running list of things I do that I said I’d never do): I left my baby behind and took a trip to see Queen Celine in Vegas with girlfriends. I used to wonder, “What kind of mother would leave her young child for a selfish trip with friends?!” Well, now I know: a good mother would! If you’re not comfortable leaving your baby behind to take a trip, that’s completely understandable, totally okay, and you’re a good mother too! But, let’s face it, some of us just need a little time to feel like normal adults who have a reason to wear heels and that sparkle eyeshadow in the back of our makeup drawers, and it’s really not selfish. It’s just a way to feel like ourselves again and, really, a way to feel new and lost appreciation for our families and the lives we’ve built at home. Absence makes the heart grow fonder, or some nonsense like that, right?

I’ve had two long weekends away with Joe since Calvin was born, but this felt different. I knew no one there would be able to share the moments in which I missed him so much it hurt. I knew no one would by dying to look at his adorable videos while we waited to be seated at dinner or while we tried to fall asleep, but I also knew that this could be very good for me. I knew that having a little too much champagne and experiencing “My Heart Will Go On” live would remind me that I’m still young and worthy of such experiences.

This would be the longest Joe ever had Cal by himself, so I knew it would be good for them too. However, I did expect some bumps in their experience alone together. Joe is a great father, but he doesn’t know all that goes into packing the diaper bag or which sippy cups are acceptable to Calvin or where I keep the Diaper Genie refills. He knows how to feed, clothe, and bathe him. He knows how to put him in the car seat and keep him safe, but he doesn’t have Calvin’s playlist downloaded for that moment his screams fill the car with panic and desperation. I didn’t expect Joe to fail, not at all. I just expected to come home and start writing about their funny mishaps – forgetting to pack snacks, running out of diapers just in time for a car seat blowout, going to church in footie PJs – stuff like that. When I asked for updates throughout the weekend, things seemed to be going as expected. I got a photo of Calvin eating a family-sized bowl of pasta for breakfast and another of him crawling around without clothes because “he’s just going to get them dirty anyway.” I got a call telling me our kitchen sink fell through the counter and flooded the kitchen. I knew Calvin was safe and fed and loved, but I was bracing myself to come home to things all out of order – a home that painted a scene of two boys just trying to survive the weekend, but when I actually got home a little after midnight last Monday, I experienced something quite different.

When I walked in, I didn’t notice the sink first. Before I saw anything, I smelled the cleanliness. It turns out, the sink broke because Joe was soaking our oven racks in soapy water as he deep-cleaned the kitchen. The counters were cleared of everything except the bottle drying rack and fresh flowers. As I moved through the house, I saw Calvin’s toys were put away neatly. The blankets were folded (nearly) perfectly. The dirty laundry baskets were empty, even the ones where I put dirty cleaning towels. I didn’t even know he knew where those were. The shower was scrubbed. The bathroom counters were cleared…except for two Lush bath bombs, one from Joe, one from Cal. I was overwhelmed. I felt gratitude, love, disbelief, and, honestly, quite a bit of disappointment in myself for expecting anything less.

Joe has always been thoughtful. He can sense the tone in my texts and knows when to bring home dessert and/or (usually and) wine. I’ve had fresh flowers on my kitchen table since our second date…unless we’re going out of town because he’s “not buying them just to let them die alone.” I honestly wasn’t surprised that he picked up the house or that he bought flowers. I was, however, surprised that he seemed to manage everything, in many ways, better than I do. He did admit that he wanted to impress me and that he couldn’t maintain this level of cleanliness and overachievement on a weekly basis, but, wow, I was impressed. It made me realize how much I underestimate and underappreciate him. I chose him as my partner because I love, respect, and admire him, but too often I let myself believe that no one could run the house better than I do. Why? Because I want to feel in control? Because I want to make myself valued? Yes and yes.

I learned so much that weekend. I learned so much, in fact, that I’ve been working on this post for over a week and couldn’t even narrow in on what I learned. It was intended to focus on what happens to Daddy and Baby when Mommy’s away, but that intention died out in the best possible way. So I pondered…Should I focus on how important it is to remain young and vibrant and fun, to be yourself and have new, adult experiences? Or do I want to focus on appreciating and not underestimating your spouse? Or should it really be about the underlying issues in all of this? Welp, after I don’t know how many edits, I’ve decided to keep a little of all of it because it all matters. I’m allowed to learn more than one thing in a weekend. And I’m allowed to appreciate more than one experience. And I’m not being graded on this essay, so who cares? I’m supposed to be making things up, right? And since I’m not being graded, I’m going to do something I’d never accept from one of my students, I’m going to conclude this piece of writing with a bulleted list, so here it goes…

A list of advice based on my Vegas weekend experiences:

  • Don’t feel guilty doing something for yourself once in a while. That “absence makes the heart grow fonder” nonsense isn’t really nonsense at all, and it’s nice to have a fond heart.
  • Pack your bag the way Marie Kondo would. It’s delightful.
  • Trust your husband. You married him for a reason, you know.
  • FaceTime your baby, and take screenshots. It’s hilarious.
  • No more than TWO glasses of champagne. You’re older now, and the headache isn’t worth it.
  • Finally, See Céline Dion live. It’s spiritual. You won’t be sorry.

*Note: Photo quality courtesy of Joe and Calvin.

Babies Are Boring

That’s right. I said it. Babies are boring, at least some of the time, and I believe any mother who says she has never had this thought is either lying or crazy. I adore my son. Really, I’m arguably too obsessed with him sometimes. He can just look at me a certain way that makes me wonder what in the world I ever did to deserve such perfection, but, let’s face it: he doesn’t know anything about pop culture or current events, and he’s just so predictable. We’ll start with a little peek-a-boo. Then it’s time to dump everything out of the toy bin. Then he moves on to pulling every book off the bookshelf one at a time. Then he’s ready to be taken to the next room to play peek-a-boo, dump things out of bins, and pull things off the shelves. Repeat until nap time. Honestly, I believe the real reason parents get excited when their babies learn something new is not just that we’re relieved to see developmental progress, it’s largely because it means we can throw something else into the mix. He can clap his hands on command now??? Wow! Finally, something other than peek-a-boo! Clap those hands, Cal!

 

I spent months on the floor of Calvin’s nursery trying to come up with new things to do with him. I’d read a book for the 64th time, but I’d change my voice – make it funny, make it a song, etc. I’d try to get into his head any play whatever little games he played, but I just can’t make shaking an elephant rattle excite me the way it does him. Finally, I decided that I really just needed to get off the floor and get out of the house. I don’t need makeup. I don’t need clean hair. I just need to put on a bra and go. Where did I go? Target, of course. I certainly shouldn’t need to explain why that was a problem. Did he need another toy? Did I need another face mask? Did either of us need new books? Nope. What about the glittery pumpkins to put out in the fall? Did we need those? Absolutely not. Did we buy all of those things anyway? Of course. It’s Target.

 

I’ve made it my mission these past two months to keep both Calvin and myself entertained without holding myself prisoner in his room or mindlessly spending money at Target, and I’ve come up with a few tricks:

 

  • First, I’ve discovered that our local Parenting magazine always includes family friendly events coming up in our area. You can also Google kid-friendly event calendars for your area. There are so many cute festivals, farmer’s markets, and gatherings you’d never know about otherwise, and most of them are free!
  • The library and local book stores also have a ton of fun, free events and activities for kids of all ages. Calvin especially loved last week’s dramatic reading of Jane Eyre.
  • We’re getting a lot of use out of our zoo pass. I pack all our snacks and drinks in a diaper bag, so the day doesn’t cost anything extra. Calvin loves to watch the animals and other kids, and I get my steps in. Win-win. We plan to get Aquarium passes when the Florida heat starts getting oppressive again.
  • I took the deepest of breaths and finally let Calvin go to the little playground at the mall a few weeks ago, and he LOVED it. Can anyone explain to me why everything is so sticky there? Actually, don’t. It’s best I don’t know. After I doused him in organic, baby-friendly hand-sanitizer, took him home, and gave him a bath, I realized that he actually survived all the germs. He didn’t even get so much as a sniffle. He’s been back since then, and I started taking him to our neighborhood park to go in the baby swings. He puts his mouth on the chains, which makes me cringe all over, but I just try to focus on how much better this is than another round of bookshelf demolition.
  • Sometimes, I just don’t want to put on that bra, and that’s ok too. I like to challenge Calvin to learn one new thing each week. I like to teach him little dance moves that make us both laugh. Sometimes I read an article or a chapter from a novel to him. He doesn’t know the difference, and I feel like I’m part of society for a minute.

 

I think it’s important to accept that it’s okay to find your baby a little boring sometimes. It’s okay to give yourself a little slack and not feel guilty when you just don’t feel like playing yet another round of “tickle monster” or staring at your baby while he plays with his feet. Going out with your baby doesn’t have to be an expensive or time-consuming production. Just go out for one hour and see how it changes your moods. And staying home with your baby doesn’t mean you have to accept everything he chooses to do. Redirect him to something you think is cute and funny. And when all else fails, put on your favorite playlist and have a dance party because nothing brightens my day more than when Cal and I get down to Queen Celine’s “It’s All Coming Back to Me Now.”

 

Have fun out there,

Kelly

 

Mommy & Me: How Grown Women Shop for Friends

When we’re kids, making friends is easy. You’re just friends with the kids geographically closest to you. I’m on the swings. You’re on the swings. We’re friends. As we get older, we become friends with classmates. Then we befriend coworkers. Before we have kids, we meet our friends for a drink after work. Maybe we even do girls’ trips to the beach or Vegas. But now we’re moms, and we need friends who understand that going to Target requires the same amount of packing and planning as our Vegas trip. We need a friend who won’t miss a beat when our kid spews strained peas all over her cardigan. So, where do we find these people?

 

I tried to bait some normal looking moms on social media, but no bites. Granted, my baiting was basically just letting the world know I have a baby and waiting for the playdate invites to roll in. When the moms didn’t swarm my inbox with invites, I took matters into my own hands and looked for a Mommy & Me class. I landed on yoga because, let’s face it, I could use some deep breathing.

 

The very first thing I noticed upon arriving to Mommy & Me yoga was that my son, Calvin, is older than all of the other babies because, like I do with pretty much everything, I procrastinated in signing up for classes. The very first thing that the instructor said to me was that I have the shortest yoga mat she’s ever seen. Then I realized that most of the moms seemed to know each other already. It turns out that they did prenatal yoga together while I was watching teen dramas and eating ice cream on the couch. Just as I was totally convinced that I didn’t belong, the first class began. We sang “Wheels on the Bus” and other sweet songs while playing with our babies. Calvin loved it. Then we did the yoga. He did not love that. We breathed and stretched and said “Namaste,” and before I knew it, class was over. This was it: my time to make a friend. I started geographically. The woman next to me had the only baby girl in the class. She was polite but was clearly uninterested in my courting attempts. I awkwardly lingered, waiting to be invited into another conversation. I felt like I was at a crowded bar at happy hour looking for a husband, and just like it was back in those days, no one seemed to notice me. Alas, this was only week one of six. I remained hopeful.

 

Throughout the next five weeks, there was more of the same: singing, stretching, breathing, and awkward lingering. I carefully observed each mom’s every move to narrow down who was in a walk of life similar to mine and narrow in on whom I should peruse as a mom friend. Women with multiple kids? Too intimidating. While I probably (definitely) should seek advice from the experienced, I find myself more at home amongst the clueless. The moms who live for the yoga and make all of their own organic baby food? Good for them! I aspire to be so centered and healthy, but, let’s face it, I’ve got a diaper bag full of Gerber and pulled my lunch from the freezer. The moms who laughed at Calvin’s crawling away with the instructor’s demo baby? Bingo!

 

Now it was back to the playground tactics. Proximity was key, but I didn’t know what to do next. Compliment their babies? Ask about their infant carriers? “Hey, Mama! Lookin’ good in that ring sling!” Was I flirting? What was I doing? I had to use some of that deep breathing we learned and try to play it cool. I was sure I was the most awkward person to ever walk into a Mommy & Me. I was sure they were all talking about me as soon as we left each week. I was sure I was going to leave this series with no more friends than I had coming in. But I was (at least partially) wrong.

 

After our last class, we went out for pizza. (Finally, somewhere I thrived!) Everyone seemed to relax and become “real.” Then, something truly amazing happened. Moms started asking ME to add them on social media. ME! It turns out, I wasn’t the only one friend shopping this whole time, and they liked what they saw in me and Cal.

 

One Facebook friendship turned into a successful zoo date, and while I don’t know if I met my new “Bestie 4 Lyfe,” I’m thankful to have a friend who “gets it.” More than that, I’m proud of myself. It’s been a LONG time since I had to put myself out there and make a new friend, and doing some Mommy & Me “friend shopping” instilled a new confidence in me. I started the series feeling insecure and left feeling empowered, knowing that, while we all “mom” differently, we’re all just doing our best, and when we see that in each other, we will find unity.

 

Love, Light, & Lots of Peaceful Babies,

Kelly.

What am I Doing Here?

Okayyyyy. What am I doing here…on a blog….talking about myself like anyone cares? I don’t really know what I’m doing here. Maybe I’m bored. Maybe this is my way of having a grown -up conversation. Maybe I’m just trying to get “Wheels on the Bus” out of my head. I may not know exactly what I’m doing here, but I figure that fits in with the whole theme of my life right now. Ever since I found out I was pregnant, I find myself repeatedly saying, “I have no idea what I’m doing.”

Being a mom is just hard. It’s messy and smelly and selfless and absolutely constant. I’ve read the books and the blogs and the forums. I’ve taken the classes and asked for Facebook recommendations. I’ve done the research and followed the rules, but the truth is, there’s really no manual for this parenting thing, so I’m pretty much just making it up as I go along. I find that I feel best about my momming after talking to or even just exchanging knowing glances with other mamas whose lives have also been overtaken by diapers and cries and a ridiculous amount of baby equipment. If nothing else, that’s what I hope to create here: a sense of community and understanding that you are not the only one with a tiny human’s snot wiped on your shirt. You are not alone.