I Tried not to Blink, but I Did

Motherhood is a tricky sport.

The days are long, so long. You spend your time wiping butts, cleaning up spilled milk, driving aimlessly for hours while the toddler naps, rocking the teething baby in the wee hours of the night, doing laundry, and then more laundry, and then some more laundry. The to-do list never gets shorter; it simply seems to grow exponentially with each tick of the clock.

And then somewhere in it all you blinked, and your tiny little, chunkalicious pickle; the child who first made you Momma, is this gangly, beautiful girl; a person you can’t really call “little” anymore, though she’s only 6.

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I tried so hard not to blink. I really, truly did. I told myself I wouldn’t. I knew that my time was precious and it would be so fast. And I know that I still have 12 more years before she’s an adult; but I’m 1/3 of the way done raising her. Because I’m a daughter, too, I know she’ll flee the nest, a bundle of independence and self-reliance, a brilliant lady that I have had some hand in – only time will tell if she’s amazing because of or in spite of. But I’m really hoping for the former.

I know I can’t take all the credit. So very much of it is nature, even though some days I wish I could take credit for it being nurture.

But then some days I’m all too happy to blame it all on nature, because she’s a pickle for a reason.

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I can’t tell you exactly when this very attached little girl became so independent. I don’t know the day, the time, the moment. I just know everyone told me she’d be dependent on me forever if I carried her all the time, nursed her until she self-weaned, let her co-sleep as long as she wanted, didn’t force her off to preschool, or elementary school.

And yet I held her close. So, so very close. And all ready she is so far some days.

So lovely and beautiful, but more importantly so vivacious and inquisitive and driven and powerful.

No other person drives me quite as crazy as Miss H. But no other person reminds me so much of myself, only so, so much better (thankfully!). I see in her all of my faults, but I also see in her all of my beauty. And even more so, I see all of her beauty and person, and you guys, there aren’t words.

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I have moments where I have to stop and ask God what in the world He was thinking, granting me with this dear girl. How could He be so certain that I would have enough patience and love to help shepherd her tenacious spirit? How did He know I’d have to delve deep into myself to become the calm, mindful momma she would need? Or what that just part of the plan? Was that the reason she’s mine?

That child has all ready moved mountains. I cannot imagine what the rest of her life will bring. But I do know that I am incredibly thankful to have a front row ticket to it all.

I blinked. I tried so hard not to, but I did. And she’s practically a little lady.

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Parenting with “It” (aka Anxiety)

I’ve written this post so many times in my head.

But putting the words down in print is a whole new ball park.

It’ so much bigger. So much more.

So much more real.

When I was kid I was often told that I had an overactive imagination. That I was dramatic.

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I took it at face value and assumed that those were bad things, which in turn made me assume that I must be bad somehow, which of course only fueled the fire roaring deep within me that I’ve only recently been able to name: anxiety.

If my mom was running five minutes late getting home from work, picking me up from a friends house or an afterschool activity, she was, no doubt, face down in a ditch after a horrific car accident taking her last few breaths before forever leaving me an orphan.

You may chuckle; I can roll my eyes at it now. But those feelings were very real for me. Until I actually saw my mom again, there was no convincing me otherwise. I just knew this was the only possibility.

And thus went so much of my childhood.

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As I entered college and adulthood I had a pretty good grasp on it. I was able to chalk it up to overactive imagination and learned to not watch shows like “Criminal Minds” if I was going to be spending my night solo. Basically, I learned how to cope with it, grasping at strings, because I didn’t realize it was an it that needed to be coped with; that there was actually healthy ways of learning to manage it.

If you’d have asked me a year ago if I had anxiety, I’d have said no without even questioning it.

But I’ve been around the block a few times since then.

I had a lot of anxiety while pregnant with M.

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Every day that J walked out our front door, I felt sick to my stomach. I knew for sure it was the last time I’d see him. When I’d kiss him goodbye as he left for a work trip, I’d linger, wondering if this was in fact the very last time I’d ever touch him, taste him, smell him, see him. Was I saying goodbye? It seemed likely.

I spent most of my pregnancy unable to shake the feeling that my perfectly healthy little M would not survive.

I know. I know. If you’ve never experienced anxiety you’re thinking, “that’s batshit crazy!” I get it. Because even in those moments, those moments of panic and worry; I knew it wasn’t rational either. It’s all I had to hold onto sometimes.

The turning point was the first day I picked Mr. B up from preschool after M was born.

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I had all three babes in their seats, driving the same 7 minute drive I’ve driven hundreds of time, when I was overcome by unrelenting dread. My heart was racing, I felt hot and clammy, and all I could think of was if our car were to hit a slick spot in the road and run off of a bridge into a raging river, I’d never be able to save all three of them. It was not raining, nor is there any river, let alone a raging river, anywhere I typically drive. Most especially not on the short drive home.

It felt so real though as I raced through the scenario in my mind. I could let H swim by herself. She was the best swimmer of the kids; she stood a chance. But if it was a raging river, she didn’t stand a very good chance. And how could I ever forgive myself for letting her fend for herself because she stood the best chance, if she didn’t actually make it?

And the boys. M didn’t stand a chance; a tiny new babe. He might not even make it to the surface. And B is so squirrely he might drown me while I tried to save him. And who are we kidding? I’m not even a very good swimmer, the boys probably wouldn’t make it at all.

And thus it spiraled until I pulled over, certain I was having a heart attack.

You guys, that was one of the most surreal, terrifying moments of my life. And the whole time I just kept telling myself it was completely ridiculous and irrational. But it wasn’t helping.

J psychoanalyzed me through it later which was insightful, but wasn’t a cure for it. The anxiety.

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I’ve not had a moment like that since, thankfully.

I’d be a liar if I said it was all miraculously gone, but it has gotten significantly better since I’ve been able to put a name on it and do a lot of research.

I like to think that I won’t have bouts of anxiety my whole life, but I probably will. The good part is that I’ve had large chunks of my life where it’s been nearly nonexistent, or at least manifested itself in more helpful ways (we eat a significantly better diet than most of America thanks to it, ha!).

The truth is, I will probably always be a little hyper vigilant about doing things “right,” especially parenting, because I can’t get past the anxiety of the “what ifs” if I screw it up, even in small ways. It doesn’t mean I actually do it right, but it is definitely why it seemed crazy important that we create a beautiful nursery three times over for babies who never actually spent a night in said nurseries.

It plays a role in why I strive every day to know better, to be better, to do better.

I can’t make the anxiety disappear, but I can do my best to cultivate it for good. I can find healthy ways of living with it and dealing with it. I can be in control of it instead of allowing it to control me.

Everyday I am learning more about these sweet babes God entrusted with me. I’m learning so much more about me and the little fires that make me me. I’m learning about parenting my children with all of our quirks, with inevitable bumps along the way.

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But from the view I have of these three kidlets, I’m pretty certain that despite my anxiety, these babies are going to be straight up masterpieces. So I’ll take it; imperfections and all.

Meeting Everyone’s Needs

A good momma friend with one lovely babe asked me recently, “How do you meet all of their needs? Some days I feel like I’m failing to meet the needs of just one!”

First and foremost, there is not such thing as “just” one. Things are certainly different, perhaps a bit more chaotic, than when we had only one babe; but I was definitely winning and failing just as much now as we were then. Just in different ways. So whether you’ve got one kiddo or 12, you’re still just as deeply in this as the rest of us.

But how do we meet the needs of three kids daily?

Well, some days we don’t.

Most days we do though.

Sometimes, oftentimes, we have to put ourselves aside. I feel quite strongly about self-care, but I also know that this season of life is so terribly short, so many times I just don’t get to come first. Some days I have to run off of fumes and one measly square of dark chocolate and delicious wafts of my husband’s coffee (thanks, Sweet M, for not loving caffeine as much as Momma does).

We’ve rearranged our lives for this current season (the parents of three children, one a young infant), to best meet everyone’s needs. We decided early on that working out would not be a priority until M is at least 6 months old. I feel much better when I exercise each morning, but M and his siblings feel even better when they get adequate rest and snuggles (and they wake if Momma gets up).

We made budget cuts and changes to allot for a housecleaner. It sounds really luxurious, but when you’ve got control issues like I do, it’s super helpful, but slightly stressful. But this is what we need right now so that we can spend more time focusing on our babes, on our marriage, on ourselves, as opposed to cleaning toilets. The time will come around soon enough when we’ll be back at it ourselves, but for now, this is it.

Meeting the needs of three kids means some mornings I accept being Groot for my four-year-old and spend over an hour saying nothing but “I am Groot” no matter what is going on. Actually, this is pretty entertaining for me. I accept this role as often as possible.

It means spending longer at the Farmer’s Market in the hot sun than I personally want in order to let them play music for the second time.

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It means that when I am super looking forward to a solo grocery shopping trip, I am the one who sucks it up and realizes that B really needs some special Papa time and change my plans to accord for taking M and H with me so that J and B can go to the Wonderlab for two hours.  And then when we come home I have to tweak our media rule so that B can play quietly for an hour while I nurse and love on a teething M and J appeases H by making a very fancy dinner with her that she chose all the ingredients for while we were shopping.

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It means dressing up in the fancy clothes my daughter chose for me even though I’m exhausted and haven’t showered in two days because she insists on it in order to eat the delightful meal she and her papa prepared.

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It means reading an extra super hero book to B at bedtime, and taking a deep breath and telling my tantruming six-year-old that I really need a hug and to cuddle when all I want to do is flee downstairs and mentally check-out for the night.

It means sleeping (well, laying mostly awake during night hours) with a baby on my chest for most of the night and loving on him while he fusses through sleep because of those dang teeth ripping his gum tissue as they push their way to emerge above his flesh.

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Now don’t get me wrong. This doesn’t mean J and I are chopped liver who never get our own needs met. As I said, self-care is really important to me.

It just means that sometimes we don’t. And we have to be okay with that in this season.

And sometimes our babes don’t get their cups filled either.

Some nights, I admit, I’m not as loving as I should be. I don’t make allowances for extra books and stick with our two book rule because I just have nothing left to offer in that moment. I know I’m hanging by a thread and that my need for some solo quiet time is greater in that moment than my child’s need for an extra book (welcome to parenting as an introvert!). Some nights, most nights, it’s reversed, but it’s okay that some nights it is this way, too.

Sometimes I am not half as patient with my feisty, vivacious daughter as I wish I were. When she is crying at me for the umpteenth time because her swimsuit is the wrong color or she’s misplaced her favorite hair bow or the pencil isn’t sharp enough or the bandaid is crooked or, or, or…yeah. Some days I just sigh and walk away until I can collect myself to be the loving, patient momma she needs. And sometimes, not often, but sometimes, as much as I dislike it, I can’t be the momma she needs at all. And I really hate that. But it is what it is.

So how do I meet the needs of three kids? I don’t. I do. I try.

Sorry, Adorable Holiday Outfits; It’s You, Not Me

When H was born, that kid was decked out to the nines from day one.

Truthfully, they’re still mostly wearing Cadillac clothing while I’m over here with most of the same things I wore in high school.

I love clothes. I love kids’ clothes. I especially love that I have a Fancy Nancy little girl (though she’s admittedly getting less fancy with each passing day). So when one of those kids – or myself – hones in on a clothing item, I’m sold. I cannot say no.

Over the years they’ve had perfectly themed holiday outfits. Specials apparel for Christmas, Valentine’s Day, St. Patrick’s Day, Easter, 4th of July, Halloween and Turkey Day.

Y’all, that’s a lot of utter adorableness.

But I’ve had enough.

Yes, me. I’m done.

Cost aside, I cannot keep up with the ridiculousness of special outfits for one-time use days. I’m even including family pictures in this – the horror! They’ll have to make do with what’s in their closets. And since they’re overflowing as is, I feel confident they will somehow grow up, the children of a millennial and a Gen X-er, mostly intact, without adorable, coordinating, holiday outfits (they’ll have lots of other reasons for therapy, I’m sure, but if it’s because of the lack of holiday outfits, I’ll probably call it a win).

But if we do want to do some simple math and factor in cost, we can. We’ll say each holiday outfit cost $15 (and we all know this is a huge under estimate). That’s $45 per holiday. Above I listed 7 major holidays (let’s not even discuss family photos). That’s $315 on outfits they literally wear one time (and it’s likely double or triple that, but J might read this so…we’re sticking with $15/outfit).

Yeah. I’m just going to sit and think about that number for a moment. And all my other first world priveleges while I’m at it.

Don’t get me wrong; holiday outfits are cute! And kids are practically like life-sized baby dolls; gotta dress ’em up while they’ll still let you!

I mean, look at this cuteness pictured here,

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here

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(that’s homemade, ya’ll!)

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here,

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(Look at the adorableness I created for last 4th of July!)

and here.

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Who can look at that without gushing?

Regardless of gushing, however, this madness has got to stop.

It’s a miracle if I shower daily. The idea that my kids need perfect little holiday-themed outfits is no more.

In this season of life I’m all about simplifying. Everything.

So I’m sorry ridiculously over-priced, undeniably adorable holiday outfits, you’re out.  Momma ain’t playing that game no more. So, so long, sayonara, adieu and adios. We won’t have even a frenemy relationship.

My adorable mismatched, self-dressed hooligans will have to suffice. And let’s just be honest, they’re probably cuter that way anyway. A whole lot less maintenance anyway.

My Little Wild Card

Since M has been born, H and B have been all about me recounting their birth stories to them.

At this point, I’m telling them their stories so often that I’ve got them down to be pretty short.

For H: “I pushed for two hours, and then finally, I gave one big push and you came flying out. None of that cute, ‘oh the head’s out! Now the body!’ stuff. Just one push and bam! You were all out! And you were screaming (at this point I make a fake baby cry, which they find hilarious), the cord looped around your neck once, and you promptly pooped all over me. And I didn’t even care. You were perfect.”

So much of that short story sums up H’s personality too. She does everything on her own time. Sometimes she drags her feet and it feels like she’ll never be where I’d like her to be, and then when she’s ready she’s all in, and I’m flailing to catch up with her. She’s loud and in charge. Always. And even when there are obstacles that might hinder others (cord), she’s unaffected and still greatly intact; a mighty little girl. And, let’s be honest, she doesn’t care who gets pooped on along the way, ha. But she does it all gracefully, and you don’t even care, because she is so damn lovely.

And B: “Your labor was 8 hours of sporadicness, off and on. But when I was ready to push, all 9 pounds of you came out with ease. They placed you on my tummy and you were so calm and peaceful. I kept squealing that you were a boy, because I was convinced until then you were a girl, but you were so perfect. And right when I started to worry that you should be crying, you let out the most beautiful little noises.”

And again, it’s all so much of who B is now. I’ve always called him my wild card, which is funny because it is his sister whose middle name is Wilde. But I’ve never quite known what to expect with B. He’s ever changing, a rhythm enitirely of his own. Much like his labor. But once he’s ready, transitions are always so seemless for him. My tiny, peaceful observer who is always changing things up, and making sure he doesn’t get lost in the mix of it all.

Oh B. Sweet, lovely, adventurous, mischevious B.

There is something special about that boy. He’s changed me as a momma so much.

When he was one year old he was diagnosed with elevated lead levels. If it’s not something you are very knowledgeable about or have experienced yourself, it’s one of those things that is easy to brush off as “no big deal” and “thank goodness it isn’t my kid” and not think anymore of it than that.

What followed was two and half really intense years of researching and educating myself on something I’d never really ever heard about before. I spent a lot of sleepness nights just watching that lovely child sleep, wondering why him? Why us? What had I done wrong? What could I have done better?

I’ve long surpassed that. I know it wasn’t anything we did or didn’t do. Not even our historical house that I was sure would be the culprit. After extensive testing inside and out; it was ruled out. It didn’t stop us from doing renovations we couldn’t quite afford though. Or converting us to a more hippy lifestyle and The Great Purge of all plastic toys (we have since, obviously, added “unsafe” plastic toys back into the mix). We even had him and H’s car seats replaced.

It’s challenging to battle something when you don’t even know what it is exactly you’re fighting. But we knew exactly what we were fighting for, and that is all that mattered.

We will likely never know the true cause. Was it environmental? Something ingested (spinach and other produce can often have high lead levels if grown in soil with high levels)? Was it from his toys or carseat (lead in plastic is mostly unregulated)? Was it, as suggested a highly likelihood, that his body simply could not filter and remove the lead from his body, so “normal” exposure quickly rose to toxic levels in his tiny body?

We don’t know. We know it wasn’t until he was 4 years old that he finally had “normal” levels (there is no “normal” level – any lead is bad. But under 5 is considered acceptable. By someone).

But being B, he never let’s anything slow him down.

He’s got such a versatile personality and is up for nearly anything. I had no idea what was in store for us with B, but I couldn’t have asked for a child more perfect for this family.

He’s forced me to change ideas, to learn new things. His personality has taught me to parent him a different way than his sister, and likely his baby brother will be just as outstandingly original.

He’s allowed me to see first hand how sometimes pushing a kid is not in their best interest; that slow and steady wins the race. That he will come into his own on his own time. That first is not always best, that fast is not always best. That he is best, just as he is. And that some days I will have to dig deep into my parenting resources to figure out just how to parent such a laid back, sensitive little dude without causing too much damage in the process.

I think it’s easy some times to get caught up in what works with one child. We decide it’s law and we’ve got everything figured out. Even when your second child is as “easy” as B, you still have to be ever-changing and ever-bending. It’s okay to change your mind; it’s okay to do things differently.

Some days I worry that my little wild card will slip through the cracks of it all. That his laid back, easy personality will get overlooked because he just isn’t as needy or verbally demanding.

And then I remember that tiny, peaceful baby on my chest. And how he squawked just so in reassurance that he’s perfect; and can certainly never go unnoticed.

 

 

Today is Dad’s day

I am so fortunate to be surrounded by so many amazing dads.

My own dad: the amazing human who makes up half of my DNA – mostly my twisted sense of humor. He’s always been one of the best people in my life, and one of the few people who I know would drop everything and do anything for me if I ever needed. You don’t get that from very many people; Lord knows I love him to pieces.

My ex-step-dad: you know you are deeply loved when another human makes the conscious decision to stick around be your parent, and to be an amazing grandparent to your children, when there is nothing binding him to do so. I genuinely couldn’t be luckier to have this guy participating in our lives.

And J. My sweet, amazing husband. The dashing father of our three babes. He is everything I ever hoped for in a partner, and then some. I grew up knowing a lot of not-so-stellar dads, so I was a wee bit leery in the men department. But I was upfront with him from the beginning; if we were going to do the kid thing, then he had to be all in. He didn’t get nights and weekends off. He didn’t get a free pass because he’d had a crappy day at work. He was there. Committed. 100%. It was kind of a silly discussion; because he was so committed even before then.

Those tiny babes have each had him wrapped around their tiny fingers from the day of conception. And more so, they’ve been fully wrapped around his heart.

There is nothing more beautiful, or sexy, than a man in love with his children. I do not take for granted for a single moment that he has always been an equal parent. He’s changed just as many diapers, paced the hall in the middle of the night with a colicky baby just as often, mended owies, kissed hands, been spoon-fed spaghetti by toddlers, and had eyes rolled at him just as frequently as I have.

He’s ever-calm in a way I still don’t understand how he manages. All hell can break loose and he’s the one cradling kids and meeting everyone’s needs while also making it explicitly clear in the gentlest of voices that families must always work together and be loving.

And there are other dads that we are surrounded by that are so great. J’s best friends. The husband’s of some of my dearest momma friends. My step-dad. My future brother-in-law is going to be a bang up dad; he’s so great and loving with my kids all ready.

When scary stuff in the world happens, it always makes me so sad. But then I remind myself of all the men I know who are raising strong, kind, loving children who will never hate another human based on race, gender or religion, and it makes me feel so confident that slowly this world will be a better place. Because of J, because of other hands-on, gentle, forward-thinking papas, there will be a whole generation of kiddos one day who only know love. (And obviously their mommas are helping there, too!)

So here is to all the dads today! To all the papas who love their babies fiercely. This is your day. You so deserve it.

Strengths Based Parenting – Giveaway!

What better way to kick off The Learning Momma finally having its own domain (previously located at thelearningmomma.blogspot.com, and I will keep that blog up for the foreseeable future) than by having a giveaway!?

Anyone who knows me knows I love books vehemently. Next to my children, they may very well be my greatest love. So it is no surprise that I absolutely love parenting books. My two greatest passions combined!

Last month my aunt gave me a book called “Strengths Based Parenting: Developing Your Children’s Innate Talents” written by Mary Reckmeyer, Ph. D. with Jennifer Robison.

Guys, it’s a winner. I devoured it in a few short days while M napped on my chest (and the big kids partook in too much TV). It discusses both parent’s and children’s innate strengths, and how to proceed, foster, and work with them in positive ways. It’s a book for your personal library that you definitely want on hand whether you are a parent, caregiver, or just want more insight to yourself!

And one of my lucky readers are going to win a copy! All you have to do is  “like” The Learning Momma on Facebook, share this post on your personal Facebook, and comment below what you feel is your best strength. One winner will be chosen next Friday, June 24th.

The End of a Lovely Breastfeeding Journey

H and B are weaned.

Officially.

Done.

All gone.

No more milk. (Okay, it’s still technically there, but it’s drying up slowly but surely).

They weaned in December. Sometime right before Christmas.

But it’s taken me this long to write about it.

It was a lot easier for them to wean than I anticipated. A complete breeze for them.

I was an utter hormonal mess.

H self-weaned. I knew it was coming. It has been a slow self-weaning process for her since last April. That was when she suddenly significantly reduced her nursing to not even 1x a day every day. She’d go days in between without asking. I knew it was coming.

But it always seemed that just when I thought, “Oh, maybe she’s done,” she’d ask to breastfeed again. But then by October when she was asking, she was literally breastfeeding for less than five seconds at a time. I knew those moments were fleeting. That she was nearly done.

And then it just puckered out. By the time Christmas Day rolled around I’d realized that she hadn’t asked since the very beginning of December. She was done.

And so was B at that point.

I made the conscious decision to cut down breastfeeding sessions with B after his second birthday. I needed it. For my sanity. He was nursing 6-8x a day, sometimes for over an hour.

So first I lessened the length of time. Then how many times he could nurse.

It was hard. I felt so mean. He’d cry and I’d hold him and offer him anything under the sun except for the one thing he wanted, and then I’d want to cry with him, because I knew I could stop the tears if I just nursed him, but I just didn’t want to. I mean, I did. I wasn’t trying to wean him at that point. I just wanted the breastfeeding to happen less.

And once it started, I’d put the ball in motion and he weaned right along with his sister. It was done and over with before I’d realized what had happened.

Truthfully, I was ready to be done. So ready to be done.

But then again, I wasn’t. Not even remotely. I totally could have been that mom still breastfeeding her 6 year old. I wouldn’t have cared. Because I wanted it to be on his terms. So I feel a bit bad that I kind of forced it along instead of letting him self-wean like his sister. I’m sorry his sister got nearly 4 years of awesome momma milk and he only got 2 years and 4 months. Not like I counted or anything.

So long as he wasn’t, you know, nursing 6-8x a day we’d have been good.

But B is kind of an all or nothing kind of guy.

So now it’s nothing.

But I’m glad we’re done. I’m fantasizing about buying a REAL bra. I bought a few spring/summer dresses (because it will get warm again some day, right!?) without thinking about being able to nurse in them (although my subconscious clearly was, because they’re all totally compatible. Alas!).

I’m glad I don’t have enough milk to let down when I hear another baby cry (for real, that happened all the freaking time).

I’m glad that I had the ability to nourish and sustain two healthy, strong babies. That I could tandem nurse them. That I could breastfeed H while pregnant with B. That I had an overabundance of milk and their tummies were always full.w

I’m grateful that I was able to connect with my children in this way. That we were able to share so many beautiful moments together.

I’m grateful that weaning wasn’t traumatizing for them.

I didn’t know what to expect when they weaned. My hormones were a mess. I’d be chopping vegetables and I’d burst into tears. And not because I was sad they had weaned. Just because I suddenly felt compelled to cry.

I cried in the supermarket once when reading a box of cereal.

I’d watch something on TV and something ridiculous like a lion hunting a zebra would bring on the waterworks.

It was a tumultuous few weeks. I’m glad those hormones have figured themselves out.

I believe in breastfeeding. I believe it is the best thing for all babes.

Although I’d encourage anyone to breastfeed to a minimum of 2 years, I’d mostly encourage everyone to do it for a day. A week. A month. As long as you feel you possibly can. Because every drop is awesomeness for your babe.

But this relationship with my children is now over. It was beautiful and fantastic. And some days made me want to pull my hair out. But I’m glad I was able to do it for them.

And on a closing note, here are some booby pictures. 😉 It’s certainly been a good run!

Newborn Miss H. Look at that nose! I just love it.

 Taking a break from the beach and sun.

 

The day B was born. Fist tandem nursing.

Newborn Mr. B

B needs in on this milk on the beach thing, too!

I’m so glad to have this picture that one of my dear friends took for me.

My heart is full.

Mary Stood

I’m not one to talk about religion very much, it’s just such a personal thing.

But lately I’ve had Mary on my mind.

I picked up my Bible the other day; something I haven’t admittedly done in years.

I’ve been exhausted and spent with sweet M’s late afternoon/early evening wailing. I was prepared for this. All through my pregnancy I reminded myself that I only produce colicky babies. Although I hate that word. “Colicky.” It makes me think that a baby is crying for no reason. And I think there is always a reason. Even if I don’t know exactly what it is.

The story of Jesus’ crucifixion is a powerful one. He allowed himself to be tortured, nailed to a cross, and murdered so that the souls of all people could be saved. Even if you’re not religious, it’s still a powerful story. This guy had the ability to stop what was happening to him by calling out to his Father, but he chose to endure it in hopes of saving people. In today’s world, we’d call that a hero if nothing else. And that’s still pretty cool.

But as I read this story, for the first time in my life as a mother, what really struck me and pulled deep at my heart strings was Mary.

Mary.

The mother of God.

A simple human.

But she was so strong. So mighty. So collected.

While many mothers would have screamed, begged, pleaded, been absolutely hysterical as their son sacrificed themselves for the good of others, Mary stood strong. Mary stood brave. Mary stood.

She watched it happen.

The baby that nourished from her breasts. The toddler whose sticky hands no doubt wrapped her legs in hugs. The gangly child who lost his milk teeth and smiled a toothless smile to her. Her heart, disconnected from her body.

That was her child.

And yet, Mary stood.

She was strong, and brave, and as composed as she could be. She knew that in those hours of agony, and during his hour of death, her child, Jesus, needed her to be strong. Needed her to be brave. Needed her to love him like no one else ever could.

So when I read this story, the gift Jesus gave to us is so blatant; the gift of cleansing our souls.

But when I read this story as a mother, the gift Mary gave her son is so beautiful. And a gift that only a mother would, and could, know to give.

For her child, Mary stood.

A colicky baby will never come close to the torture I’m sure Mary felt; not a fraction of it. Her pain is that of which I could never even begin to imagine. But goodness, if in her darkest hour with her child, in such unfathomable emotional pain, Mary could be the calm, loving, strong presence her child needed, what in the world can I not do for my children?

I mean, Mary stood.

To Fail is Not Failure

H is a perfectionist. She comes by it honestly. Her momma was/is a born perfectionist. I spent my entire childhood and adolescence in the mind frame that if I tried once and was not immediately excelling at whatever it may be, then I should find something else that I was good at. Eventually this evolved from being very leery of trying *anything* new because there was always that risk of being imperfect, not the best; essentially in my brain: a failure. And thus I stuck with what I knew and what I was great at because I couldn’t stand to let others down by being less than.

As an adult, and most specifically due to motherhood, I have *mostly* learned from, and outgrown, my perfectionist ways. They still creep up on me every now and then.

But this made it so, so easy to notice these tendencies in my daughter at a very early age. 

I’m still figuring it out, but I am absolutely determined to help her handle her perfectionism in healthy ways and cultivate it for good.

No one ever told me it was okay to not excel at everything. No one told me that being challenged and thus, not instantly the best at something, was a good thing. No one told me that simply not being good at something at all was perfectly acceptable. No one told me that is was okay to do something I loved even if I wasn’t good at it at all.

And so H will know these things (as will her brothers). 

She is the only 6 year old in her gymnastics class. Her classmates are all 10 and 12. H loves gymnastics passionately (I’ve come to realize that ballet will never have her heart as I wished it would, and that’s okay!) She did not immediately excel at running round-offs and back bends and cartwheels on balance beams. She had to work *so hard*. Sometimes she’d get mad or frustrated and that little girl in me would want to say, “It’s okay to stop. You don’t have to do this.” Because I knew the pain and frustration of feeling like you’re less than. Don’t worry though. I put a muzzle on that little girl and duck taped her into a closet and the momma in me instead let her lament her frustrations to me and listened patiently. And then I validated those emotions and pointed out how far she’s come. And how far she’ll go with more hard work. Being challenged is a *good* thing. That’s how you learn and grow.

She auditioned for a show choir recently. I held my breath. She can carry a tune better than her momma, but she’s definitely no prodigy. But I encouraged her to try it if she loved it, and prepped her that it was also okay if she didn’t make it.

After her audition I asked her how it went and she replied with, “Mom, I was amazing, of course. I’ve got this.”

Ya’ll, this girl *has got this.*

And she made it (I’m pretty sure all the little kids did). And she’s over the moon and ready to challenge herself. Which is a good thing. Because I eventually gave up a deep love of performing because I wasn’t half as confident as H. I didn’t know it was okay to be confident and not be the very best.

So this morning while H was reading a book to me and got jumbled up on a long word she’s never come across and immediately began sobbing (see this is where little Ki and momma Ki are two useful people to have in my head. The momma was like “wtf, this is not a rational response” and the little girl was like “this is so rational. I get it. Would you like me to throw that book across the room for you?”) I was able to help her.

“I’m terrible!” She screamed at me. “I don’t know that word! I’m such a failure.” (Note to self: discover who introduced her to the idea of being a failure and cut their tongue out. In a very kind and loving way that is for the good of all humanity, of course).

“You are not a failure. Even if you never learn to read this word, you are not a failure. You failed to read the word correctly, yes. But we rarely get things perfect the first go around. To fail something does not make you a failure. Not trying does.”

She cried for a few minutes on my lap. Then she picked that book back up, and she nailed that word perfectly on the second try.

I’m just making this shit up as I go. Some days I feel completely ill-equipped for this parenting gig. But I remember that there is a reason God chose me to be the momma of these three beautiful babes. 

And just like I’ve told H, so many, many times. “To fail does not make you a failure. Simply not trying does.”

And so every day I try my very hardest, but I give the perfectionist in me a lot of grace. Some days I am challenged, and that’s okay.  I am not the best at any of it, but I’ll keep doing it because I’m terribly passionate about these three tiny humans. And that’s all that matters