Taking Stock.

It’s Spring Break, and I had lofty plans about all that I would get done… but that isn’t happening, never happens. Might as well take stock of the things that are happening in our lives.Takingstock

Making : Wish lists on Airbnb for all the imaginary vacations I want to take. Way cheaper than planning real ones.
Cooking :  Gorgonzola, bacon, and sundried tomato stuffed chicken… so easy and tasty and tonight will be my 3rd time in 8 days. Can’t stop, won’t stop.
Drinking : Coffee coffee coffee.
Reading: Just finished Lewis Mumford’s The City in History… because FUN. I mean, dissertation.
Wanting: A Roomba. (Do you love yours??? Or are my illusions of how much it would improve my life incorrect?)
Looking: At pictures from our visit to the Infinity Mirros exhibit yesterday.takingstock2
Playing: Endless games with Henry, because he is at that stage where everything is a game. Eating scrambled eggs in the morning? THROW THEM ON THE GROUND AND TRY TO KICK MOM IN THE HEAD AND GIGGLE WHILE SHE PICKS THEM UP. Vacuuming? CHASE THE FASCINATING BEAST AND GRAB AT THE CORD. Surfaces to whack and drawers to pull and toilets to hit and life to explore? SO EXCITING: BEST GAME EVER.
Wasting:  Too much time. We all do, but parenthood has made me acutely aware of that. I watch commercials like this and lose it, crying the ugly cry, just like it was the  This Is Us finale all over again.
Sewing: Never, but I do daily consider sewing a pouch on my Ergo360, because whoever designed that thing without one should be fired.takingstock3
Wishing: That PBS hadn’t changed their streaming situation, because I was really banking on grading midterms and compositions all break while watching Victoria.
Enjoying: The way that Henry tries to mimic silly things we do. I love to pop up over the edge of the tub while I bath him and play peek-a-boo, and he has started trying to do it, lunging upward in a flurry of giggles and splashes and it is THE BEST.
Waiting: Until we file our taxes this weekend and see if any of those imaginary vacations can materialize.
Liking: Face masks. Fancy soaps. All the tiny little pamperings that I look forward to at the end of my frizzy pulled-on hair, spit-up encrusted, haggard day.
Wondering: When things will slow down a little at work for James. Henry and I have missed our favorite person a lot this week.
Loving: The way that Henry snuggled against me and dozed after nursing yesterday morning. I just wasn’t ready to start the day yet, and so I hauled him into bed to nurse in the dark and then we both started our day more gently and slowly and quietly and perfectly.
Hoping: That I can keep nursing when I stop pumping on the days I work in a couple weeks, because I am just so over pumping.takingstock4
Marveling: At how fiercely I love that kid and watching him learn this world
Needing: A nap. That fierce love sure is exhausting.
Wearing: This pencil skirt, which is absolutely everything you could ever want in a pencil skirt. #elasticpleaseforever
Following: DC Cherry Blossom Watch to see if the trees, who have had every variety of ridiculous East Coast Winter-Spring Mashup thrown at them, will pull through so I can visit them soon.
Noticing:  How much happier I feel about days at home when there are fresh flowers on my table… maybe because it balances out the scrambled eggs ground into my rug?
Knowing: That as messy as these days at home are, they are so good and beautiful.
Thinking: That sometimes it would be easier if I was totally staying home, so I could excel at that, or working more full time, so I could really invest at that.
Feeling: That at the same time, I am impossibly lucky to get to do both. It doesn’t always lead to clean floors, or lengthy writing sessions, or mental clarity. But it is so very good. takingstock5

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A Weekend at Fairyhouse Hall.

If you follow along on Instagram, you might have noticed that amidst the normal monotony of brunch, Capitol Hill, and Henry, there was a brief blip of strange luxury and posh surroundings a couple weeks ago.  It is all due to this lady…RachelThirty_102…who decided that life is just to short to not throw an amazing party every once in a while. It was Rachel’s 30th birthday, and when she told me that she was throwing an epic weekend party, I decided to try to find a way to come. After all, she had located a place called Fairyhouse Hall, and that sounded too magical to miss. Thanks to weirdly cheap flights that weekend, and amazing parents who agreed to let me dump a very-difficult-teething-montser-baby-Henry with them, it happened!

You know I wouldn’t spare you the photos.RachelThirty_072RachelThirty_071RachelThirty_103Y’all. THESE COOKIES.I personally think that a good cookie (thick and soft) is the most perfect dessert in existence. RachelThirty_073RachelThirty_074RachelThirty_075Because nothing sets off a Badgley Mischka dress like an insulated bag of breast pump parts. By the way, it was my first time trying Rent the Runway, and I give it a solid B+.RachelThirty_079Why yes, we did wander the house and take awkward photos with the posh decor. RachelThirty_077RachelThirty_080RachelThirty_082RachelThirty_086Happy birthday besties! All three of these ladies have birthdays in the same week, and I’ve been happily fourth wheeling their birthday celebratings since the 8th grade.RachelThirty_083RachelThirty_084So, here’s the deal. There were actually many other people at this party. But I just found myself hanging with the girls who have been my inner circle since we were all awkward middle schoolers. The friendships that last for years are the very sweetest ones, and I will always be looking for time with my girlfriends…RachelThirty_090RachelThirty_091RachelThirty_096RachelThirty_097RachelThirty_099… especially if that time includes an Irish jockey turned chef who showed up and made us all breakfast. I KNOW.RachelThirty_100RachelThirty_101RachelThirty_098The logistics of flying early Saturday morning, laughing the night away, flying back late Sunday night with a cranky baby, having a truck hit our plane as we were boarding and then being delayed several hours in Chicago while a replacement plane was found, finally rolling into DC around 1am, was a special sort of awful in direct contradiction with the beauty of these photos.

But.

A magical slumber party with some of my very best friends, as well as a few hours with my parents, and Henry getting to see his grandparents made it all worthwhile.

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One of those lists.

“Oh… you’re going to do one of those posts where you just list lots of random stuff with a heading like ‘Things I’m just REALLY loving RIGHT now!’ ” – James, ever supportive.

Why yes Husband, yes I am.Processed with VSCO with a6 presetBecause it’s a snow day today ( In March! I love it! More please! THEN SUMMER COME), and I’m sure you need some random reading. Processed with VSCO with a6 preset

Obviously, there is nothing I love right now quite so much as that baby in a bow tie and suspenders. What started as clothing for his baptism this past weekend might just become daily attire. But I do love some other things like –

This candle, that smells just like the Anthropologie one, but is a tiny fraction of the price.

This swimsuit, as I am forever searching for the perfect one piece for tall ladies.

This podcast, which momentarily filled the void left when this podcast stopped.

Really want to read this book, because you know I won’t ever shake my Proust obsession.

Are certain names tied to facial characteristics?

Though my degree will be in French literature, I am an Art History junkie, and am determined to squeeze a painting chapter into my dissertation in spite of the skepticism of my committee. I’m fascinated by the idea of neuroarthistory.

Had I the riches, I would snag one of these paintings.

As I feel like I increasingly spend time making meals, packing lunches, preparing bottles, washing sippy cups, cleaning scrambled eggs from the carpet, this was a good reminder of lessons we learn from feeding our kids.

“Don’t ever let someone convince you that cooking a meal for your kids— or anyone else for that matter— is one more thing to check off the to-do list. Every time you feed someone, you’re offering love, security, comfort, therapy, and memories shrouded in happiness and warmth. It’s no small thing.”

Speaking of kids, how do you buy clothes for yours? I like to purchase anything Henry needs all at one time, at the beginning of the season. I take stock of what we have that still works, make a list of exactly what we need, and then buy it in one day. Though that means a tad more up front, it means far less wasted on random pieces snagged here and there. I have been researching and prepping to buy stuff for the summer as he is growing out of what we have. I was thrilled to see that these are finally back in stock, as they are the absolute best sleepers.

So much stigma surrounds decisions about how to feed babies. I loved these 10 stories of nursing, weaning, and all the decisions in between.

And speaking of moms- just no. These are hideous. Go home Nordstrom, you’re drunk.Processed with VSCO with hb1 preset

Now then. Back to snow day reveling. Which, to be fair, looks just like a regular day since I am home on Tuesdays, but that is completely irrelevant. What are you loving and reading right now?

 

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From the trenches: Please love my kid and don’t take all my money in the process.

Processed with VSCO with a6 presetI always took childcare for granted growing up, always just assumed that the amazing babysitters my mom found for the couple days a week that she worked were just plucked easily from the vast reserves of the Good Childcare Providers, a place that most surely existed where mothers can find quality care at good rates with a single phone call.

Which is proof that a) I was delusional and b) The Babysitters Club books really shaped my view on reality.

When we were a couple months pregnant, we went to add our name to the list for the well-respected childcare available through James’ work. It wasn’t cheap, but it was a better deal than many options and it would be convenient. We assumed that we were on the ball, signing up when I was a mere 10 weeks pregnant…until we found out that the waitlist was 2.5 years long. You are already 10 weeks along?!?!? Most people sign up when they consider trying to get pregnant, James was told,  You’re behind!

And thus we were thrust into the neurotic subculture of DC childcare.

I started doing my research, calling and learning about waist lists that lasted years, lotteries that decided elite playgroup participation (and have, I am sure, a direct correlation to future earning potential), and rigorous curriculum for 2 year olds. I learned about “Boogie Babes” and baby yoga and the fine points of DC nanny laws. I did math and stared bug eyed at numbers I calculated, remembering when I was paid $5/hr for babysitting. I spiraled into total despair about the cost of childcare, praying every night that we could actually find someone who would keep our kid alive — even if they didn’t have an advanced degree in Essential Oil Based Baby Meditation and Inspiration Soothing Techniques.

Several things crystallized during my hours of stress-googling.

  1. Being a mom who works outside of the home means that you spend at least half your time and potentially more of your income trying to arrange childcare.
  2. DC is a seller’s market, where there are 5 families clamoring for every spot/nanny/sitter that exists.
  3. I am not willing to be away from my baby full-time, even if that means putting up with all sorts of obstacles to arrange the part-time yet amazing childcare of my dreams. As my friend Bekah wrote, there is no parent who does not sacrifice, and I think moms feel this acutely, whether they are staying at home full-time, working full time,  or some combination of both. No mom escapes the childcare stress, even if she is the one giving all of it herself. Researching childcare helped me to assess what sacrifices I am willing and able to make in terms of finances, mental sanity, time at home, etc.
  4. If possible, it was not my preference to have Henry in a large group childcare at a young age. I have zero judgement for anyone who puts their kid in daycare. If anything, being a mom has taught me that we are all just doing the best we can and finding what works for our own families, and I know that daycares can be so wonderful and often the only financially viable option. But given our part time, academic calendar needs and my desires for Henry, it was not my first option. (Plus they all have forever long waiting lists, even if it was my wish.)

In the fall, we got lucky. I was only back to work about 10 hours a week, and a single posting on a church forum had a single applicant who was singularly perfect for our family. Susan watched Henry all fall, putting up with my first-time parent neurosis and constant theorizing about what we should do to make him __________ (eat/sleep/play) better. I had a different system practically every day and she flowed with all of them, allowing me to scribble suggestions on post its all over the house and not judge my crazy. She would wander all over Capitol Hill with Henry in a bear suit and text me excitedly when he actually pooped, as he was a once-a-week-pooper back then and it was an EVENT. Susan was the perfect nanny to teach us how to have childcare. She loved our boy so well and allowed us to know that he has having one-on-one care at a time when we (even more than him perhaps) needed it.

But for the spring semester, Susan was leaving DC and I needed more hours per week given my work schedule. I started searching again, imagining that it would be similar to last time. I placed ads… and got nothing. I cast the net wider, posting ads on various childcare sites, calling any and all possibilities, questioning everyone I knew about potential if their cousin’s sister’s ex-boyfriend’s neighbor might be able and interested. No one wanted us. No one wanted to care for my absolutely perfect ginger baby, with the finally perfected sleep skills, multiple bear suits, and the deep laugh. At least, no one wanted to do that on our limited budget and very part-time hours.

Sometimes I imagined what a perfect scenario would be. Cloning was my first fantasy, a second Hannah to stay home and mom it up 24/7. Home Hannah would organize museum outings and park dates. She would have diaper bags full of healthy snacks and toys and endless bottles of bubbles to dole out to children at the park, earning the love of all little people in the Lincoln Park neighborhood. She would speak French to Henry at home and keep the house clean, the baby happy, the fridge stocked. Because of her, Work Hannah could focus on teaching and finishing her dissertation with the full knowledge that her baby was also getting all of her. Processed with VSCO with a6 preset

But as it seems like you folks over in Science World (a world so far from Humanities Kingdom that I’m not even sure where you are) haven’t figured out cloning yet, my dream was to find another mom to include my kid in her life a couple days a week. She didn’t need a fancy house. I didn’t care if she went to Baby Yoga or boogie babes or served up organic chia seed pudding. I wanted her to be willing to crawl on the ground at the park and hug him when I couldn’t.

I found Cassandra’s name and number on a Capitol Hill mom listserve, and we clicked when we first talked. She watches 1-2 kids along with her own toddler, and after 4 interviews with her (I know- I’m rolling my eyes at me too), I found myself begging her to take us, to choose Henry from several kids whose parents were also vying for a spot. Please love my kid. Please keep him safe and make him laugh. And give him vegetables instead of crackers and pick him up when he face-plants on the playground.

She picked him, in spite of my neurotic questions and James’ intensity in drilling her about her homeowner’s insurance. And I count Cassandra as one of the biggest blessings in our life. Henry is obsessed with the two toddlers he is with. He is exhausted when I pick him up, and so happy. She texts me videos every day of Henry on the swings, dancing in the living room, whacking happily on a tambourine. One day I arrived and found a giant furniture box on her porch and she proudly informed me that her neighbor was throwing it out but she saved it so the kids could turn it into a fort. If I can’t be with him all the time, than I am happy knowing he’s with her.

I see people looking for childcare on the mom list serve all the time, and the diversity in families is great. Some have several kids, others just one. Some need part time, others full time. Some want specific languages spoken around their kids, others want a caregiver who focuses on activities around the city. But under all the requests, we are all just asking for the same thing, from the corporate DC lawyer who hires a private nanny to speak Italian with their toddler daughter, to the hourly wage earner who drops their baby boy off at a large daycare center.

Please love my kid. Please keep them safe and make them laugh.

I imagine I will spend a lot of my laugh thinking that, though now I can actually say it aloud. I can request that of the people that I pay to have around Henry. But someday he will go off to school, to camp, to sleepovers, to college, to jobs and life and people far away. I will watch him walk off into crowds of humans who can be so cruel to each other, so dangerous, so callous. I will breathe it like a prayer every time he goes out.

Please love my kid. Please keep him safe and make him laugh.

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This & That

Henry is 9 months old. NINE MONTHS. That can’t be possible. But it is. I didn’t get around to taking 9 month pictures, so instead I’ll just throw up one from a particularly wonderful day recently of mother-son clothing matching.

James is so ashamed. And Henry probably would be too if he had any idea what was happening.

Some things from lately…

I’ve decided that it is time to submit to the mom sneakers. You know the ones, the ubiquitous Nike’s or New Balances that all the moms wear to chase kids at the park. I am kind of intrigued by these instead of the usual versions.

Ok. I usually think it is kind of stupid when people freak out about someone “using” their baby name. No one is original. If you try, you end up with really awful names, and being original at the cost of dooming your child to a crap name forever – not worth it. We knew when we named Henry that his has never, and will never, be a unique name. Don’t care. Not only is it a family name (which I know everyone uses as their excuse, but it really is! And not just in the abstract second cousin twice removed had it as a middle name deal), but it is just a solid name. BUT. When we named him Henry Wilberforce, we were excited to use a name of important historical significance. And then the Duggar girl went and used it and I am a little displeased about being associated with her. So let the record show – we had it first.

After I mentioned making biscuits a while ago, someone shared this recipe and I can’t wait to try it.

Love the looks of this sweater.

I am like Sisyphus, cleaning up at least 8 times a day, only to have the mess begin again. Loved these thoughts on mess and a cleaning playlist.

People love to talk about living in small spaces, but what constitutes a small space is drastically different for everyone. I think of our under 1000 square foot (and no additional storage beyond a massive Tupperware bin in the crawl space with our camping gear) as small, but it was fun to look at these different apartments.

Love these suggestions too, for some simpler days.

And finally, a friend threw this quote up as her Facebook status the other day, and I haven’t stopped thinking about it:

“What’s prayer? It’s shooting shafts into the dark. What mark they strike, if any, who’s to say? It’s reaching for a hand you cannot touch. The silence is so fathomless that prayers like plummets vanish in the sea. You beg. You whimper. You load God down with empty praise. You tell him sins that he already knows full well. You seek to change his changeless will. Yet Godric prays the way he breathes, for else his heart would wither in his breast. Prayer is the wind that fills his sail. Else waves would dash him on the rocks, or he would drift with witless tides. And sometimes, by God’s grace, a prayer is heard.” –Godric, Frederick Buechner

 

 

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Set a timer.

winter2017-103I remember sitting at so many baby showers before I had a baby, listening to that moment where everyone shared advice for the mother to be. Some was good (“Take ANYTHING from that hospital that isn’t bolted down!”), some was bad (“Make getting your body back for your husband asap a high priority!”), and some just didn’t make sense in the moment (“ICE PACK PANTIES”).

Now that I have survived about the same time with Henry out of the womb that he was in it, I have my own advice:

Set a timer.

This timer will be your link to sanity, your Inception-esque spinning top, the thing that let’s you know that you might feel like you are losing it, but you can do this – because what feels unbearable is only a matter of minutes. And you can do anything for a matter of minutes. That timer will be what you cling to when the short period of pain or suffering or tears feels like it will never end and it will swallow you. Set that timer and hold on – you’ve got this.

In the beginning, when nursing hurts, and it seems like all you do – set a timer. You will hear that baby cry and you will hate yourself for it, but sometimes you won’t want to answer. You will want to roll over and stuff the pillow over your head and go back to sleep, or walk out of the house and let someone else be stuck in that chair for another endless nursing session. But you can’t do that. So set that timer, and settle in. When you feel like it has been ages, just look over and know that it was only 28 minutes, and you did it, and you can do it again. And you will watch the timer get shorter, as you both learn what you are doing.

When you decide to start pumping, to make those bottles that give you little slivers of freedom – set a timer. Because nothing sucks worse than pumping (pun very much intended), and you will hate it. Because if nursing hurt, than pumping might really hurt, and you will sit in the fetal position on the floor, sweating and crying and staring at the picture of the smiling woman on the hands-free pumping bra box. And you will scream profanities at her in your head, because her hair is done and she is conducting  a conference call in a suit while she pumps and there you are, working so hard and getting so little. And your husband might suggest that maybe you should try pumping in a pencil skirt, and you consider hurling the pump at his head, but decide to laugh instead. And you feel like that pump is eating hours, days, of your life, but then you look at the timer and see that it’s been 6 minutes, and you relax, just a little.

And when you do manage to pump enough for that bottle and you break free from the house – set a timer. Partially because you aren’t footloose and fancy free anymore and you have to be back, but partially to remind yourself the power of 49 minutes alone walking around the block or grabbing a coffee down the street or driving to Trader Joe’s by yourself just to eat samples and buy flowers.

When you are working on developing a schedule, trying desperately to carve order from the chaos of your life – set a timer. Work on a rhythm, even if it will take a long time for that repetitive pattern to actually be a set schedule. But those intervals, looking down and seeing that ah yes, it has actually been 2.5 hours since the last feeding, so the baby is probably just crying from hunger not because they have contracted a rare viral disease that will kill them, those will keep you sane.

If you decide that it’s time to sleep train, and you know there will be tears – set a timer. There is no pain like hearing your baby cry, that baby that you love more than life itself, the one who desperately needs to get and give more sleep. So you have decided to let them fuss just a little, in hopes that they will start learning to sleep somewhere other than your exhausted arms. That seemed like a good idea when they were cooing in your arms, but now they are there in the crib, screaming, and you are sobbing outside the door because you are the meanest-worst-no-good-awful-hateful-mama EVER. Or at least, you are until you look at the timer and realize that it has been 2 minutes and 36 seconds. Because no one told you that crying babies slow time to such an extent that eternity slips in. You say you will give him till 4 minutes to stop crying… and it happens. Or it doesn’t, and the timer justifies you in sweeping that baby back into your arms and trying again tomorrow.

And then one day, and I promise you, Oh Weary and Haggard mama, you will realize that you forgot to set the timer before you nursed. You just picked him up and nursed him, without special pillows or covers or props or chairs. It didn’t hurt, and you wouldn’t have minded if it lasted longer. And he laughed at you afterwards, and you laughed at him, and you aren’t even really sure how long he ate but you know he’s ok.

And you stop using the timer when you pump or go out, because those things are easier now, and that tiny baby isn’t so tiny and can go longer without you. He eats food now, and you long ago accepted that formula will not be the thing that keeps your baby out of college, and you do what both of you need to do to survive.

And the schedule doesn’t feel daunting anymore, because it is just there like a simple outline of how the day might go, but it bends and flexes, creating order, but also space, in your days.

And he doesn’t cry at all when he goes to sleep, and sleeps long and deep. You barely remember those early tears, only the way he giggles and flaps all his limbs when you come in to get him after naps. You aren’t upset when he wakes in the morning, only excited to go in and cover him in kisses.

But then you start thinking of the other timers.

6 minutes until he is too fidgety to nurse any longer and wants to speed crawl away from you and explore. 3 months you guess, until he won’t want to nurse anymore at all. 4 years until he starts school and your days won’t be cycles of snuggles and naps and piles of books on the floor. 7 years until he doesn’t need you to read the books for him.  10 years until he starts getting too cool to want to hang with his mom. 17 years until he goes to college. 20 some years until he maybe gets married, and you aren’t the most important woman in his life.

And that timer? The one that kept you sane? You hate it. You thrust it far away, not just out of sight, but deep into the recesses of darkness that lap at the corners of life. Go slow time, you whisper as you see that little boy sucking his thumb as he sleeps at night. Slow down.

So set a timer. And know that one day, you will stop setting it. And that, dear Mama, is the best and worse news that I can ever give you. winter2017-110

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He is fun.

winter2017-89winter2017-92winter2017-97winter2017-100winter2017-105winter2017-107winter2017-112winter2017-116winter2017-117winter2017-118winter2017-119winter2017-121winter2017-61winter2017-62winter2017-63winter2017-71winter2017-72winter2017-75Sometimes, as I have blogged before and will most certainly blog again, being a mom is Not Fun. It is sometimes Hard But Good Work.

But other times, it is really fun.

I don’t think I really got this before having kids. I knew I wanted to have children, wanted to have a family that grew together, knew I would love the stage when my kids were old enough to be friends. But I didn’t expect the fun of this stage. I knew there would be sweet joy and tender moments, but I didn’t expect the fun of hanging out with my baby.

My sister-in-law and I were talking recently, and she mentioned that someone made a comment recently about how it was “lame” that her husband wanted to hang out with their kids on Saturday mornings while she left to do a pilates class. Before having kids, I would have applauded the noble husband for giving his wife a break. But now, not only do I emphatically insist that husbands aren’t babysitters, but I know the truth: you want to hang out with your kids, even young ones. Because they are fun.

Henry is experiencing the world for the first time and it is BLOWING HIS MIND. He recently realized that he actually knows his way around our apartment and can transport himself from one room to another to find things he likes. He gets so excited about crawling into a new room, and we are not above crawling alongside him to explore the fascinating world of our 980 square foot apartment. He learned that he can take all the books off his shelf and shake them open, flipping pages and looking at pictures. He loves to swing and go down slides and be tossed high in the air. He loves to laugh, to catch balls, to make silly faces and splash. I love him,  but I also like hanging out with him. He is uncomplicated and his joy is pure, his fun complete.

Let me tell you what ruins this fun: too often I forget to just play with him. I try to multi-task, or check my phone, or stress about what I “should” be doing. Then what was fun becomes work. Obviously, life can’t be an endless stream of park dates and book chewing. Sometimes I have to sit on the floor and grade behind his back while he crawls in piles of puzzle pieces. Sometimes I respond to student emails as he plays at my feet, or fold laundry next to him. But I have learned to love the fun of playing with my boy, rather than just shepherding him through his day. He is an excellent teacher.

This long weekend was so good to us. The weather was unreal, and even though I still spent all of Saturday afternoon working, we had a lot of fun. We trekked this boy around Capitol Hill, played at the park, crawled in front of the Capitol, and spent lots of time giggling around the house. (And yes, I did wear the same shirt Saturday and Sunday afternoon. Not ashamed.)

Children are hope. They are work. They are purpose. They are an investment. They are a sanctifying challenge. They are exhausting. They are love.

But they are also fun, and I don’t ever want to forget that.

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