5 for Friday.

Five ramblings of life right now, punctuated with random pictures from my phone, in lieu of a coherent blog post addressing things of actual significance:

screen-shot-2016-09-30-at-12-45-42-pm1. This picture popped up in my Facebook memories recently. Y’ALL. THAT IS NOT ME. But someone tagged me in it because it basically looks like me when I had bangs, holding a baby. Somewhere out there I have a chambray loving, baby holding doppleganger.

2. Henry is going to be an elephant for Hilloween, which is the yuppie Capitol Hill version of Halloween, aka, Parents Pushing Nice Strollers And Socializing While Kids That Cannot Even Chew Receive Candy That Their Parents Will Eat. His bestie is going as a lion and it is going to be awesome. Obviously you will be treated to more photos than you knew you wanted. And speaking of yuppie parents, I am now on the MOTH (Mothers of The Hill) listserve, and I’m pretty sure that these ladies are secretly running this city like a strangely powerful lobbying group devoted to strong opinions about protruding tree roots in parks. I love it. I also love that I was able to score Henry’s elephant suit for mere dollars and a jogging stroller for FREE thanks to these ladies.

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Yes, fall and all, but my toesies are still loving the open air and these sunflowers still make my summer loving heart happy.

3. After asking about it forever ago, trying Mint and not loving it, we are on the YNAB train. Still figuring out exactly how it works, but I love it, and just the act of having to enter our purchases whacked mucho money off our spending last month.

4. As Henry can now roll and loves to move to on his side and press his face into the walls of the RocknPlay, at least, when he is not trying to sit up or flail his legs in such a way as to lunch his swaddled body out of the thing, a change was needed. We moved him to the crib and a Zippadee zip on Wednesday night, with great fear and trembling. All in all it has not been as traumatic as I thought, though there have certainly been DARK MOMENTS AND TEARS, not just his.

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I promise, I do actually own other pants and shoes… but if you have a uniform you like, why change it up?

5. I never thought much about showering until having a baby. I mean, I did it when needed, but not every day, and didn’t care for lots of products. Now the shower is my refuge, and I anticipate it like a private spa, demand it every day. Because my standards for spas these days are : no one is touching me, I am not covered in spit-up, and I have no decisions to make beyond what sweet smelling product to use. My SIL gave me a bag of treat yo’ self goodies for my birthday and I have been LOVING this eye cream (so long dark circles!) and this scrub. She also gave me soap that makes me smell like an almond croissant and I consider taking a bite out of the bar every time. What are your favorite pampering products?

Happy weekend!

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Secondary triad represent!

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Of chaos and calm.

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When your benevolent overlords put you on that sheepskin again and expect you to whack at those things for like the millionth time and you just can’t even.

I expected the chaos of life with a baby. I mean, no one can really prepare you for that panicked feeling when a 6-week old baby won’t stop crying and then finally does and then you get in bed and they start again and you just lie there going no no no no noooooo – please no. No one can tell you how desperately you will crave a shower just so you can be totally alone for a couple minutes. No one can really tell you how insane things will get. But even if I couldn’t fully understand what was coming, I expected the crazy, the tears, the exhaustion, and the stress of trying to fit in what needs to get done in the shortened time to do it. The chaos proved true.

But what I didn’t expect was the delicious calm that comes with having a baby. I don’t just mean those precious moments where the baby is sleeping on your chest and your heart almost explodes. Those are beautifully still, but they aren’t the calm that surprised me.

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Henry is very good at putting James down for a nap.

In pre-baby time, before I had perpetual tired eyes and did not yet know about the diversity in snot suckers and diaper creams, we were busy. We planned things most nights of the week, had weekends booked out forever in advance, ate dinner late, and enjoyed an endless social calendar. My extroverted heart loved it. In those early newborn weeks, we were busy too, but it was all focused on SURVIVAL and FEEDING BABY and trying to MAKE BABY SLEEP and figuring out HOW ARE WE SUPPOSED TO HANDLE THIS?

But now, we are less busy with the details of just keeping Henry alive. I’m not saying that we have this parenting thing figured out, but I only do the panic Google thing in the single digits each day, so we are basically pros.  We are less busy with Henry, but we are also aware that his schedule demands saying no to a lot of things. This means missing things, but it also means…

… SO MUCH CALM FUN. When you have a baby, it’s like a super trump card, to the point where people just stop expecting as much from you, which is glorious. It’s like you totally fall off people’s social radars and while that can sometimes be hurtful, it also means that you don’t ever have to go to things unless you REALLY want to. People with babies benefit from the power of lowered expectations. In addition to the social vacuum where you find yourself, babies eventually force you into time you never knew you had.

James tries to get home earlier now, even if it means working earlier or again after Henry is in bed. We usually don’t plan things past 7, which means that once Henry is in bed by 8, we have blissfully long evenings where we eat delicious dinners, play jazz, sip wine, read, and binge watch TV. Don’t make me pick which of these activities are less classier than the others. We have time in a way that I can’t ever remember having it. True, we are basically held hostage by our sleeping Tyrant Baby, unable to go out and enjoy the big wild world in all it’s fullness. The slumbering dictator could always wake and scream and ruin everything, but even this constant threat of doom makes the minutes special.  What a perfect prison our living room is, in all it’s stocked-fridge and Netflix-ed perfection. I love the calm of evenings at home.

We used to sleep in on Saturdays, and other days too, waking at the last possible moment before work. This meant more sleep, yes, but it also meant days that started late and then rushed their way to a late completion. Now,  we all wake up at 6:58 on the dot, like it or not, weekends and weekdays. I shuffle groggily into Henry’s room to feed him and start the day, always planning on going back to bed once he goes down for his nap. Sometimes, I do. But often I find that when my day starts with his, I am fine by the time he goes down. Henry used to get up at 7:30, but then his extroverted FOMO self must have heard me tell James that I wanted to start getting up half an hour early to have some time for prayer and scripture before he woke up, because beginning the next morning he helped by waking me up that extra 30 minutes earlier. Fighting it failed, so we start our mornings in the big chair in his room, wrapped in a fuzzy blanket, him trying to eat the pages of the Bible while I read it. It is one of the most sacred moments of my day. A baby swiftly undid my 28 years of coffee resistance, and I love the calm morning rituals of shuffling around our apartment with my mug in hand. I also love the magic power that comes from coffee, though one morning I overdid it and texted James excitedly in all caps while I whirred around the house cleaning and doing pushups off of furniture, only to crash with a stomach ache a couple hours later.  If James has a day where he can go to work slightly later, we walk around our neighborhood on breakfast dates. While I miss those blissful extra hours of sleep, I actually love what has come to fill them. I love the calm of earlier mornings.

The chaos of life is so real right now, and when people talk about life with a young baby, I think we tend to focus on what is hard and chaotic, because so much is. But there is also calm, a wonderful calm that comes from the parring back of responsibilities and commitments. Here’s to a life that constantly tilts between the two.

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Do I use breastfeeding as an excuse to eat lactation cookies alllllll the time? Yes, yes I do. Gotta provide for my kid and all.

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This & That.

henry-four-months-9That baby there? He’s four months old. FOUR MONTHS. As in, basically an adult. I’m not quite sure how we got here, but here we are, and it feels surreal. All of the sudden he went from being a skinny, old-man faced newborn to a giggly plump baby intent on blowing bubbles and trying to stand. And I can’t get enough of him. We were supposed to go beach camping this weekend like we did last year, but Henry and I came down with colds and the prospect of a windy beach and chilly tent didn’t seem like the best idea. Instead we had a mellow weekend at home.

Some things happening around the internet that have had my eye lately…

I really want to get Henry a pair of these for fall, but I just can’t justify the cost since, you know, he’s not even walking or anything. Any knock-offs you recommend?

I  loved reading the Dear America books as a kid and I totally stand with this author. I think that historical fiction can have a great role in developing the compassionate imagination so vital to us all.

I can’t get enough pesto these days, routinely pulverizing an entire bag of spinach into pesto and thus calling pasta a “healthy” dinner. I follow Phyllis’ rules about how to pesto anything (can pesto be a verb?).

The nice thing about a baby is that they go to bed early and yet keep us captive at home in the evenings, allowing us a really nice chunk of time to just chill. James and I are totally engrossed in Homeland (for fans of: 24, which you know we are) now that it is on Hulu… any other good shows that you are loving these days? I’m always trolling for new recs.

It’s nice to know that working moms aren’t as miserable and stressed out as people make us think.

I want to buy all of Laurie Anne’s prints and redecorate our home in a bird motif.

This is a marvelous idea.

Hope your week is off to a good start! And if not- join Henry in making this perfect pouty face.henry-four-months-7

 

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My baby is inconvenient.

summer2016-135When Henry was a newborn, we took him everywhere. To my brother’s wedding, to a whole slew of baseball games, to cafés, to restaurants — anywhere and everywhere at anytime. Because newborns are, as one of the ladies in our church put it, like potted plants. You just set them places and they either cry or sleep, but they don’t move. I prided myself on being that flexible mom who didn’t let her baby stop her from enjoying life.

But somewhere in the past two months, Henry grew up a little. Though it is hard to pinpoint exactly when it happened, we have developed a rhythm that is slowly evolving into an actual schedule, a schedule which makes all our lives easier. Henry has a bedtime, one that helps James and I have wonderfully calm evenings. It leads to a boy that wakes happy and is increasingly napping better and at the same time everyday. It no longer seems completely ridiculous to predict how our days will flow. This is really wonderful, because I have a dissertation to write during naptime, and now naptime is actually happening.

But it also means that our days of wild newborn spontaneity are over. The beautiful rhythm that we are living doesn’t just happen. I invest a lot of work and time into making it happen. Blowing off naps, playing fast and lose with bedtime – these things wreak havoc through our days, rippling out into an exhausted baby prone to melting down.

I have felt the need to hide it, this deep inconvenience of having a baby.  We’re flexible, I tell people, let us know what is good for you. I find myself apologizing that we are running late because a nap was fought and then went long, or because of some other decision that I made because I knew it would result in Henry getting what he needed. Or I disrupt his schedule to suit others and find myself apologizing for the screaming baby, even though it is obviously not his fault.

But you know what? I’m not flexible right now, and I’m not sorry. I’m tired of apologizing.  I’m inconsistent, yes, but not flexible. Henry might refuse to sleep, or wake up early, or do something that might totally disrupt my plans. I will work around his schedule because him having good days directly leads to me having good days, but that’s as accommodating as I can get. Yes, I can disrupt his schedule, and I do sometimes. I can totally ignore naptimes or bedtimes for lunch with friends or an evening out. But I will pay for it. I will have a baby melting down in public because I refused him the nap that he needs, or a night where he wakes every hour because he went to bed overtired. Sometimes, this is worth it. Sometimes I weight the benefits and decide that a day of ruined naps is worth that prolonged breakfast date with an old friend, or that we will risk a ruined bedtime by putting Henry down at a friend’s house so that we can continue a dinner party. But some relationships, some activities aren’t worth what I will pay later and I’ve decided to be ok with that.

Because the truth is, we all want to be the cool people with babies, the hipsters whose lives aren’t disrupted in the slightest by the tiny human that they are sustaining. We want to be praised for our flexibility, for the way that we “haven’t changed at all” since having a baby. We want people to talk about how easy our kids are, how we aren’t “those” parents who make life revolve around their children. We want to just add a baby into our photos, our funny stories, our flawless Instagram feeds, and ignore the inconvenient reality that raising these little people involves a total restructuring of our lives.

Because babies are inconvenient. They are demanding and consuming and they do not fit into the neat boxes where we would have them.Parenting demands a recognition that life is different now and that raising these little people will change everything. You can fight it, or you can embrace it.  And I’m done apologizing for embracing it.

Because this inflexible reality of a limited social calendar and outing restrictions lets me embrace a whole lot of quiet joys and routine blessings. september-6

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From the Trenches: Give me back my hair.

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Were I to be doing tummy time too, Henry and I would look eerily similar from above these days.

I promise this is not just going to be a post lamenting the reality of painfully slow postpartum weight-loss. I think that people only really complain about this because the tiny fraction of the population that loses theirs instantly is just so obnoxious in rubbing it in everyone’s faces that we forget that it is a very slow process. Though having a baby makes you instantly feel weightless because you are no longer waddling around with a massive beach-ball preventing you from seeing your feet or rolling over without fearing suffocation, it is still a long road back to those skinny jeans. And that’s ok. I gained an amount of weight deemed healthy by my doctor, and while half of it melted off within the first three weeks, I have lost a grand total of 1 pound since then, in spite of constant exercise, breastfeeding, and moderately healthy eating. Yes, this could make me cry if I focus on it too much, but that’s where sleep deprivation and inability to focus on anything not essential comes in handy.

The real injustice, and the real point of this truly pointless blog post, is to whine about my hair.

Y’ALL. MY HAIR.

Or what is left of it. I had heard people mention postpartum hair loss, but I ignored it. I have thick hair, long hair, hair that I spend a lot of time thinking about and styling because I really, really like hair.

Your hair gets so thick during pregnancy, they said. Liars, I thought, even back then. Instead of the universal thickness I anticipated, I just grew some strange layer of bangs that stuck straight out from my hairline. But it’s ok, I thought. They will fall out after birth. But no- my spike bangs are staying staunchly put and are instead intimidating the rest of my hair into abandoning ship. I find this in the hairballs littering my house, the phantom hairs that I feel on my arms when I wake up, the sad flatness to the top of my head when I pull my hair back. On two separate occasions, the source of Henry’s wails has been revealed to be a Hannah hair in his diaper, adding actual injury to insult.

You might be thinking that I am making this all up and overreacting, thinking Hannah, I have seen pictures on this blog where your hair looked fine. People, it is an illusion, carefully crafted by a fog of hairspray and dry-shampoo, with the occasional hurricane force wind adding further volume. You might say it is superficial to groom hair that much, I say it is a good Southern upbringing showing itself. One does not just sit idly by and let one’s hair be flat, but I am currently like Sisyphus, pushing the boulder of hair products forever up a mountain, only to have them momentarily work before new strands of hair fall around me, crushing my dreams.

The obvious solution? The mom cut, but I just can’t go there yet.

It is unfair, really. Dealing with the postpartum body, the sleepless nights, the hormonal changes – it is bad enough. But at least you feel sanctified by the struggle, elevated by the mighty thing you are doing. I am daily aware of my body being poured out to sustain my son, constantly in awe of this body that — while squishier and rounder than I would like — grew and produced life. It is noble to embrace the changes in my body. I tell myself I do not want my old body back, but instead want a new body that is strong and healthy and prepared to guide my child through this world. I can have grace with my body because I feel its new strength all the way through me and I see marks of the sacrifice I made to carry Henry.

But I draw the line of healthy acceptance right about where my hairline is currently receding. No one goes around praising the nobility of thinning hairlines and mangy locks. No one makes motivational pictures praising the strength of women while focusing on hair that hangs limp and lifeless. No one speaks of the service to our children that involves vacuuming endlessly lest he choke on a hairball.

And so, while I will proudly learn to love my new body… I would really like my hair back.

Until then, I’ll just stroke the thin red hair on the top of my son’s mostly-bald head and run my fingers down his tiny mullet.

You and me both kid, you and me both.

"Chill out Mom- just wear a burp cloth on your head and people will love you." - Henry

“Chill out Mom- just wear a burp cloth on your head and people will love you.”
– Henry

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29.

Processed with VSCO with b5 presetLast weekend we celebrated my 29th birthday, and you know I can’t let a birthday pass without inundating you with some quality cell snaps. I told James that what I wanted for my birthday was for a small group of people that I really love to show up for a dinner on time and stay put until the end. I didn’t want a party where people “tried to stop by” or made it event one of an evening of other social functions. I didn’t want to worry if people would show up or feel sad when they couldn’t make it. I wanted intentionality. I know that might sound just a tad controlling, but James asked me what I wanted and I was honest.

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PEOPLE HAVING FUN AND STAYING PUT. Perhaps they were scared to leave. Don’t care.

And it happened, my intentional dinner party where everyone showed up and stayed put. James talked a local coffee shop into doing a private five-course dinner and we gathered our friends together for an evening. Babies were left at home. Henry went to bed without us for the first time and I can’t decide if I am pleased or miffed at how he just didn’t seem to care that we weren’t there. We ate tasty food and when we were done, somehow half the group ended up back in our living room for a post-party. It was exactly what I wanted.

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Look at us wild moms partying without spit-up on our clothes. CHAMPIONS.

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This lady has been coming to my birthday parties since we were in middle school. She had headgear and I wore horse t-shirts, and I am thankful everyday that social media wasn’t around yet so that we only had to wonder if we were totally uncool, rather than actually knowing that we were social outcasts.

I want 29 to be a year of intentional living. I want to make decisions and then see them through, to choose wisely how we spend our money and our time and our energy. I want to be picky with what we put in our lives and then joyous with what comes out. I want more select dinner parties and fewer attendances at events that don’t matter. 28 was really, really good. We traveled, loved on our community of friends and family, saw the realization of professional goals, moved, and created a tiny human who has stolen our hearts. 29 feels like it has a lot to live up to, and more importantly, a lot to squeeze in before 30, which is basically the end of life as we know it.

Just kidding on that last one. But 29 is the last year of my 20’s, the last year of something that has always seemed to stretch out deliciously long and full of promise. 20’s feel like they are full of second chances, full of space to mess up and start over again. I would love to walk away from 29 next year and think, we did it, we did it all. I’m not even sure exactly what that will look like (though I realllllyyyyyy hope it looks like a finished dissertation), but I know that it’s going to take some intentional living to get there.

And you know, of course, that I will drag you back here next year with an exciting update. Get excited.

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It’s been a struggle to find a back alley near our new place as good as the one at our old place, but I have persevered. I know, I know, you are just so thankful.

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Babes at the beach.

laborday-64Every summer I dream of doing the beach house thing, the pack-all-your-favorite-people-in-and-play-lots-of-games thing. It never happens, as I usually end up looking for something in June and everything is gone. But this year I swore things would be different. Having a baby in the beginning of the summer meant no huge trips, but a beach weekend? Totally doable. One of my students connected me with her family’s beach house rental, and last weekend we headed to Bethany Beach to enjoy Labor Day.

By “we,” I mean 13 adults, 2 toddlers, 3 babies.

And then Hurricane Hermine rolled up the coast, and we spent Saturday morning listening to driving rain and howling winds, wondering if we should leave before the roads flooded. Most of us opted to risk it and stay, and we were rewarded when the storm was downgraded Saturday afternoon. Not exactly the weekend of catching up on tans and beach reading that we expected, but a great weekend nonetheless.

And obviously, it was over documented, so here are way too many pics of our weekend with babes at the beach.laborday-1laborday-5laborday-7laborday-11laborday-15laborday-17laborday-19The general consensus is that my sister-in-law Ruth would probably be a better parent than any (all?) of us. She spent a lot of the weekend under piles of babies and books, with nary a complaint. laborday-58laborday-22laborday-27laborday-31laborday-20Susannah and I have been friends since elementary school and I cannot begin to tell you how special it is that life happened in such a way that we both moved 9 hours away from home, but next to each other. We have always talked about wanting to vacation with our families over the years and IT IS HAPPENING AND I CAN’T GET OVER IT. 20-wf0904201624-wf0904201626-wf0904201630-gf092016-web32-gf09201620-ff09042016laborday-37laborday-38Susannah is also the best photographer, and I plaster her work all over this blog at least once a year, though this year we are already on the second go since she did Henry’s newborn photos. We did some beach photos for each others’ families over the weekend, and if it looks like we are all wearing the same pants… we mostly are. Leslie had her own pair, but, in the truest gesture of friendship, Susannah took hers off and passed them over moments before our photos when I deemed all my own options unacceptable. laborday-33laborday-34laborday-35laborday-59laborday-60laborday-62laborday-66laborday-68We spent all of Saturday venturing out in shifts to brave the crazy wind and marvel at the massive waves. There is something humbling about facing the power of an angry ocean. When indoors, we played a lot of games and ate obscene amounts of junk food. laborday-70laborday-71laborday-72laborday-73Henry’s smug dictator face is the best, especially in contrast with Ava’s perpetual, sweetly concerned face. laborday-75laborday-76laborday-77laborday-78Ok. Let’s have a moment of honesty, because these serene pictures of our outing to the Rehoboth boardwalk for dinner Sunday night are only part of the truth. Yes, it was lovely, and yes, we ate tasty food. But taking out  3 babies and a toddler at bedtime, in a cold wind, with no plan, was a terrible idea. There were tears, there was screaming, there was even some blood. The evening culminated with half of us in an ice cream parlor surrounded by babies who were losing it and parents who couldn’t stop laughing because that was the only way to keep from crying. laborday-83Here’s the thing about life with babies: it is absolute chaos, not too different than the hurricane charging up the east coast. The posse of littles underfoot this weekend were exceptionally well behaved (do babies even “behave”?), but they are still tiny  humans who just aren’t always in control. They still cry, with or without reason, they still have tiny little needs and schedules that dictate life whether you like it or not. It can be frustrating and even isolating. But spending this weekend surrounded by family and friends who are at the same stage of life that we are at reminded me of the deep joy of doing this crazy kid thing together. I am so thankful for this tribe, this village, this posse of parents and friends who really get where we are at now because they are there too. They are ready to jump in with an extra set of hands and an open heart.

I’m still not totally ready to give up summer, but this weekend did feel like a good finale to all that has been so precious from the past couple months.

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