From the trenches: Naptime.

I have all sorts of things on my heart and mind that I want to blog about, but at the moment my brain is mush because this week was on the more difficult end of the baby spectrum. So today, a brief update from the trenches of parenthood.

Lesson learned: Never count your naps before they happen.

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Henrybadger don’t care, Henrybadger don’t want to nap.

On Monday I was on the phone with my mom gushing about how sweet and easy Henry is. Because he mostly is. He is pretty chill be nature, and he accepted the Baby Wise schedule concept pretty easily, so that at 12 weeks we have a baby who is fairly predictable, goes down easily and self soothes remarkably well, sleeping 11 hours at night with one quick snack at 4 am, and rarely just cries on end for no reason.

At least, that’s the baby we had on Monday.

Sometime during the night he morphed, and we all woke up on Tuesday to a baby who fights every nap and then only sleeps for 30-40 minutes, which means that we have a crabby baby and a desperate mama by early evening, frantically texting James “ARE YOU ON YOUR WAY HOME YET????”  On Friday I finally caved and just hit the sidewalks, pushing him in the stroller, as not even a mighty nap striker can resist the stroller. I grabbed an iced coffee from my favorite neighborhood coffee shop and walked, crying as I listened to this podcast that gave me the encouragement I needed.

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Nap strike essentials.

It’s tempting to count on naps before they happen, to game out how you will fill the time, what lofty things you will accomplish. But until a nap has happened- you do not have it. You can count on nothing, trust in nothing, believe in nothing. You will experience the full range of emotions during these non-naps. Smug contentment when the baby goes to sleep quickly, followed by calm and joy as you pour that cup of coffee and settle into the quiet house. This will change to anxiety and fear as the minutes pass, every slight sound a potential wail, and you tiptoe back to the room and peak through the crack in the door to assure yourself that the tiny tyrant sleeps. And then they come, the wails, and you jolt back and forth between anger and fear and sadness and panic and this is parenting from the trenches. Finally the resignation sets in, and the nap is over.

I’m not putting this up to ask for advice, or to be reminded that this too shall pass (unless you have a totally foolproof solution, then by all means DO SHARE). I know that. And the Internet has no lack of advice, all of which has been tried. I’m just giving you an update from the trenches, lest you too are there.

I started the week turning to Baby Wise, convinced that they would have a solution. Instead, I just found “By 12 weeks your baby will be taking 1.5 hour naps,” and elsewhere “Make sure that your baby naps for 1.5 hours.” Baby Wise – you are delusional and fired.

Sometimes, James and I try to control the narrative. Like if Henry woke up after 26 minutes, we would let him fuss a little, as last week, he would fuss for five minutes then sleep for another hour. This week he proved that he has ENDLESS stamina, and there would arrive a moment where we knew the nap needed to be over, but we didn’t want to “reward” him for crying. Our solution? Wait for the first pause and then burst in, all smiles, saying things like “Henry you had SUCH A GOOD NAP! Don’t you feel so rested???” That’s right, we try playing mind games on our baby.

One time, I got him up from a nap that lasted all of 32 minutes and as I pulled off his swaddle, that cheeky little baby stopped crying, looked me in the face, and then laughed at me for a solid 3 minutes. This was the same response he gave when he produced a spit up of epic proportions all over James the other evening, only to follow it with a deep belly laugh at his ability to soil clothing.

And it’s moments like that that I lived for this week. That resignation I mentioned above, the final emotion in a gauntlet of highs and lows? It is so often replaced by gushes of tenderness and joy at the little baby who is so happy to be done napping and back with his mama. When you’re in the trenches, sometimes success doesn’t look like lengthy naps. It looks like baby grins that light up all the registers of your brain that has slowly been shutting down from sleep exhaustion. It looks like frayed nerves instantly soothed, not by peace and quiet, but by baby giggles and coos.

Now then. Back to the trenches. Further updates as warranted. Send caffeine. I’ll just be over here rapidly rotating between laughter and tears, frustration and elation, exasperation and love.

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Naughtiest, sneakiest, cutest, most lovable baby there ever was.

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It is not well with my soul.

Henry 8 weeks-11For the first couple months of his life, Henry had this tiny squeaky cry that sounded like you were stepping on a kitten (I assume at least- I don’t go around marching on baby cats). It was objectively not very loud, and kind of cute.

But then two events happened in close succession that changed his cry. Ok, so really I’m sure that it was just him getting older, but it coincided with first – his 2 month shots. A couple hours after that round of shots, he started crying a cry we hadn’t heard before. A deep cry, a loud, mouth-opened-in-pain cry that just about killed me as I rocked my sweet boy. The only thing that made it better was knowing that the pain he felt was ultimately for his benefit, as those shots delivered vaccines that will protect him against much greater dangers.

But the following week, Henry had his first experience where someone deeply wronged him and caused him pain.

And it was me.

As happens to many parents, I was trimming his nails and I cut too deeply. The blood gushed at an alarming rate, I froze, and Henry’s eyes opened wide in shock. For one split second he was too stunned that someone had hurt him to respond, and then he screamed for a solid 45 minutes before drifting off into fitful sleep. He bled through multiple Band-aids, causing frantic internet searches for “can my baby bleed out from his finger.” He will surely forget this event, but I never will.

Ever since that traumatic week, he has maintained this new cry, this cry that sounds like it knows pain like it has seen things. He cries with less innocence now, if that is even possible for a baby.

Obviously I am overthinking it all, because that is what mother’s do. But still.

When I sit in his rocker for the millionth time each day, I sing hymns to him and I always come back to “It Is Well with My Soul.” So much is not well with my soul right now, so much evil in the world, so much pain among my friends that I fluctuate between anger and sadness. And then I look at my baby, with his newly educated cry, and I know that it will get so much worse as he grows. He will learn to mourn and have deep sorrow- of this I am sure. The world will teach him pain and suffering and injustice and I can’t prevent it. I sing the words of that hymn over and over and I wonder if Spafford actually believed it when he wrote it, if he actually watched all his children die and reflected on his lesson and then wrote a hymn. I doubt it. I think he wrote it in an effort to believe it. Like, if he sang the words over and over enough — maybe they would teach their truth to him. Maybe they could act as an incantation that convinces. Because even though I know that I believe all the things in that old song, my heart rebels against the idea of calm acceptance of all the things that are unwell with my soul. And I think that’s ok. I think our souls should be bothered by a lot of what they experience in this world. They should need reassurance that there is something beyond what we are living now. Our souls should grieve and grow angry and cry out that things aren’t the way they should be. Because they aren’t. But if we repeat truths back like the ones in this song, we have something to cling to when everything is profoundly not well with our souls.

In the meantime, I’ll just be here rocking and singing and teaching my boy a truth that often won’t feel true, and that is the most important time to cling to it. Summer2016-55

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5 things I love today.

  1. Iced coffee. You know I hate coffee, but I have gone from almost never drinking coffee unless it was heavily laced with chocolate and whipped cream, to desperately needing a big glass of iced coffee midday, only laced with a tad of almond milk. I even mastered making the coffee myself when James forgot to make a pot earlier this week. Because babies=coffee, and it started as necessity and now is a ritual that I really look forward to.
  2. This compression tank. Yes, the longterm goal is to actually lose the baby weight… but the short-term goal is to fit into clothes, so helllllooooooo compression cami. Yes, I think I will have to be cut out every time I try to wriggle it over my head. Totally worth it.
  3. This music video. Whereas the “Happy” song that was big a couple years back made me want to gouge out my eyeballs with pencils, this song actually makes me infectiously happy. That man in the grocery store dancing? That’s basically me when I get to go grocery shopping without Henry, which brings me to….
  4. Grocery delivery. Glory be. I may never go grocery shopping again. It is decidedly more difficult with an AC hating baby, but even if the store part is successful, getting lots of groceries to our second floor apartment when I sometimes have to park a decent distance away always ends poorly. Not only does Peapod do free delivery for 60 days, but you get 20$ off your first order, and I was able to more effectively shop sales and avoid impulse buys. It also saves all previous orders, meaning I can quickly add repeat items. Grocery shopping this week took me all of 15 minutes, and I did it without wearing pants. I saved major time and major money, and someone else carried my groceries up the stairs and deposited them on my counter. GLORY BE.
  5. Watching Henry make serious faces and wave his tiny fists around while James narrates his thoughts as if he was a post apocalyptic dictator à la Mad Max (a movie which I absolutely hated, for the record). Because we are now those parents, who are pretty much enamored with everything this tiny redheaded human does.Summer2016-100

What are you loving today? Happy weekend!

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The best of the best.

Summer2016-88Summer2016-91Summer2016-92Summer2016-94Summer2016-97This past weekend we celebrated James’ birthday with all the best things and in all the best ways.

And by that I mean giant piles of those cheap ice cream sandwiches wrapped in white paper and a store-bought ice cream cake onto which we squeezed 29 candles. I gleefully got Henry in an outfit that matched James’ shirt and we grilled out with a bunch of friends. There were no decorations, I did not make any food, and that was a very good idea. We felt like champion parents because Henry went to bed at the house where we were hosting the party without a problem, and then we managed to get him home and put him back to bed without waking him up. Happy birthday James, that’s your real gift.

There is no way I could ever express how good a father this man is. Watching him with Henry makes me so happy that we chose each other, that he will be the dad to all my babies, and it also makes me wonder how on earth we got here, celebrating the last birthday of our 20’s with a baby asleep upstairs.

Happy birthday husband. You’re the best of the best.

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Kale Quiche & Tips for Taking Meals to New Moms

Summer2016-85This week Henry will turn 11 weeks old (HOW IS THAT POSSIBLE?) and it marks a very important milestone in our lives. No, it’s not the first time I forced him and James into matching outfits, though that did indeed happen over the weekend. This week marks the official end of the dinners people have brought for us. Tonight we will eat the Last Supper of Covered Dinners, and then I will have to officially re-enter the kitchen and start cooking.

Y’all, I would be lying if I didn’t admit that having people bring us food was one of the things that I was looking forward to most about having a baby, and it did not disappoint. For 10 glorious weeks I have not cooked. I have made the occasional grilled cheese sandwich, or tossed in some canned green beans to go alongside leftover pot-roast, and once or twice I got ambitious and boiled water for pasta. But I haven’t really cooked much beyond that, haven’t had to meal plan or prepare, because people kept on bringing us dinner. Summer2016-77As I mentioned in my last post, this element of support was one of the most appreciated. It meant that I could focus on James and Henry without worrying about us all being well fed. It meant that we were well fed without James having to cook, as he has many gifts, but that is not one of them. It meant very little time spent on dishes and lots of time spent cuddling. Summer2016-79I am now officially a missionary for convincing people to shower new moms in weeks of delicious meals. For years I have cooked meals for friends, but it is only after being on the receiving end that I really understand how much it is valued. Furthermore, it is only in being on the receiving end that I really understand now what makes excellent carry-in meals. And so, if you have ever faced the what-do-I-bring-a-new-mom quandry before, let me give you some quick tips, gleaned from the trenches of those early post-partum weeks.Summer2016-80

Some classic carry-in dinners that are always a hit: chicken pot pie, bbq and sides, soup, lasagna-type pasta bakes, meat-and-veggie casseroles, pot roast.

Unexpected dishes that we loved: fajitas, chicken with quinoa and veggies, grilled flank steak (heats up surprisingly well!), cold salad samplers.

Bring lots, especially of the meat. Did we have a different person bringing us a meal every night since Henry’s birth? Obviously not. But most people bring enough for several meals, and we dined for days on each contribution. What was most appreciated in terms of leftovers were the people who brought big quantities of cooked meat, like pulled pork for BBQ or a friend who just cooked a bunch chicken breasts and brought them along with some sides. We froze the meat in portion sized bags, which reappeared throughout the summer with the addition of quick sides or salads that involved little to no hands-on prep.

Vegetables are amazing. Yes, we all love the sinfully good casserole. But 10 weeks of eating those is rough on the old digestion system and waistline, and no, nursing doesn’t burn that many more calories. I really appreciated that most people brought some healthy veggies or salads along with protein and some decadent desserts so that we had a semblance of nutrition.

Disposable dishes are everyone’s favorite. Let’s be honest – returning people’s casserole dishes might be the single hardest task ever. They sit on the end of your kitchen counter for weeks until you finally forget who they belonged to and adopt them back into your own already crowded cabinets. If possible, take food in containers you don’t want back.

Be organized. Using a digital system like this allowed us to know who was bringing what and when, helping us to plan out our days. It also avoids the “we got 16 lasagnas situation.” We also had someone send us a meal, and it was really delicious- a great option if you wanted to support friends who lived far away.

Stock on snacks. Several people brought granola bars, coffee, crackers, and other little snacks with their dinners, allowing me to further procrastinate on grocery shopping while keeping munchies handy for those nursing hunger moments.

Do not forget breakfast. And so we finally arrive at the real point of today’s post. Those early weeks are a blur of exhaustion, nursing, and hunger. You sleep until the last possible moment, waking as the baby starts crying, and knowing that you have approximately 42 seconds until that cry becomes a FEED ME NOW wail, and all the while you are screaming inside FEED ME NOW TOO. You need something that is substantial, fast, and can be eaten with one hand. Several people brought us quiches or breakfast casseroles along with dinner, and I initially didn’t think much about them. But over the weeks, they became my favorite thing. I was able to jump out of bad and microwave a slice of quiche quickly, allowing me some much-needed nourishment before nursing. Summer2016-81When my mother-in-law was visiting in early July, she restocked the depleted stores of my freezer that my own mother had likewise stocked right after Henry’s birth. She made up two crust-less quiches packed with kale, one cooked to eat over the next week, and the other frozen and ready to bake the following weekend. When I finished both, I immediately begged for the recipe, because this quiche is delicious. It is hearty, with one slice filling me up and giving me a full serving of veggies. Without the crust it feels just a little bit healthier, absolving me of any guilt. And it is SO EASY TO MAKE, with just a handful of ingredients. Summer2016-82And so, I invite you to make this “New Mother Kale Quiche” (as I am dubbing it, since my MIL told me she always takes it to new Mothers). Take it to the overwhelmed new Mothers in your life who don’t even think of making breakfast until they are already strapped to a nursing baby and ravenously considering ordering Chinese takeout at 6:30 am. Take it to the new Fathers who are still a little clueless about how to help their wives and who usually scoff at quiche, but who will be won over by this hearty pie. Take it to anyone who is experiencing new life changes and who needs something to look forward to when that “good night’s sleep” that the doctor ordered is in short supply.

Or just make it and eat it yourself. No judgement.Summer2016-83

New Mother Kale Quiche

  • Large bunch of Kale – cleaned and  rough cut. Usually making 2-3 cups (I added a couple extra cups because I just really love kale!)
  • 1 large Onion – diced
  • 6 Eggs
  • 16 oz  Cottage Cheese – whatever your preference: large of small curd
  • 16 oz  Shredded Cheese – again whatever your preference: Colby, cheddar, etc (I made it with less in these photos to offset my crazy amounts of kale and it worked fine!)
  1. Saute kale and onion until onion transparent and kale is soft.  Allow to cool.
  2. Whip together eggs, then add cottage cheese and shredded cheeses.
  3. Add cooled kale and onion mixture.
  4. Salt and pepper to taste.
  5. Pour this mixture into a prepared pie pan.
  6. From this point you can either wrap the quiche for future use and freeze it – or you can bake for  1 hour in a 325 degree oven. Do NOT rush this slow bake. It is the slow bake that draws the flavors together and insures a lovely texture to the eggs.
  7. If frozen, thaw overnight in refrigerator and bake as instructed.Summer2016-84
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On our team.

Summer2016-57Summer2016-60Summer2016-61Summer2016-64Summer2016-65Summer2016-66Summer2016-67Summer2016-68Summer2016-69Summer2016-71Summer2016-74Summer2016-75Somewhere over the past month, we pulled out of the haze of those first newborn weeks. I mean, I still think of my little baby boy as having just arrived, but some thing are getting easier. I can set him down [on certain, very select, surfaces] for a little while. He can mildly entertain himself by batting at objects. He has communicative sounds other than crying. And he [sometimes! mostly! kind of!] sleeps-ish through the night, meaning one quick snack in the wee hours of the morning, a departure from the endless feeding of those early days that feels like heaven.

But the thought of having to accomplish much more than survival, basic self-care, and the occasional blog post still feels daunting. I have been slowly easing back into dissertation writing and semester prep, and I alternate between feeling like yes, this will work, and UTTER DESPAIR, and I’m sure you can guess which corresponds to the days that Henry naps well.

All this to say, when James wondered aloud a couple weeks ago why people were still bringing us meals because “we’re fine now,” I might have given him a frantic bug-eyed stare and said that we would never be totally fine again and goodness gracious do not will the help and support to stop. Because the team that has gathered around us since Henry showed up has been unreal. I could wax poetic for hours about the meals, cleaning, babysitting, and emotional support that our near and dear have poured out, but I’ll spare you. For now.

Instead, I will just gush about our most recent visitor, my college roommate Bethany. We started planning for her to come visit early in my pregnancy, and somewhere along the way, I asked if I could transform her visit into a help-me-get-everything-done trip. And because she is the best of the best, that’s what we did. She watched Henry in the afternoons while I slipped out to work on my dissertation. She joined me in braving IKEA with a baby and offered quick input when I got indecisive. She helped me finally start decorating Henry’s nursery and would just pick up things around our house and do dishes. She made me run with her when I told her that I had impulsively signed up for a half marathon even though I haven’t really been running, even if it meant that we were doing long runs at 10:30 at night because that was the only time it was cool and convenient. And then, when Henry chose her visit as the moment to finally reject his newborn 9:30 wake-up time for 7am, Bethany suggested that I feed him and then pass him off to her and go back to bed. Which of course, I did. Because best friends make the best babysitters and it feels like handing Henry off to an extension of myself.

Bethany is one of the many people who have been on our team in this figuring-our-life-with-a-baby thing, and I couldn’t be more thankful. Babies come into families, yes, but they also are supposed to come into communities, into teams that hold up their tired parents and make this life thing just a little bit easier. Since having Henry, I have been so impressed with the team that I didn’t even realize we were forming, and I am very sure that we couldn’t do without them.

 

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Maybe the last wedding post.

Maybe, but don’t make me promise.

The anticipation of Zach and Liz‘s wedding coincided almost exactly with the nine months I was pregnant, a combination I don’t recommend unless you want to stress out everyone around you as you continue insisting that everything will be fine, and that obviously you will be at the wedding. The last month was a constant back and forth about if this baby would cooperate, and when he finally did, no one was happier to be on that dance floor than me.

Obviously I wanted to be at that wedding because I love Zach and Liz and we show up for our family. But I also wanted to be there because I knew that it would be an objectively amazing wedding. Liz and I texted and talked about details all year and I was so devastated at the idea that I might miss THE wedding of the year (century? EXISTENCE?). One of the details I was most excited about was her photographer. I had been fan-girling hard for Perry’s work for over a year, and when I suggested (read: BEGGED) that Liz look into her, I knew we wouldn’t be disappointed. She shoots film, has a perfect eye, and makes everyone glow like dewy fairies. Every time I would get mopey about being 39 and a half weeks pregnant at the wedding and resembling a whale in my long dress, James would comfort me not with lies like “you’ll look great!” but with the beautiful truth: “Perry will make you radiant.” He trotted out this same truth when I ended up being 1 week post-partum at the wedding, with all the bleary eyes and haggard looks that this implies.

And he was right – Perry perfectly captured this impossibly beautiful day in photos that radiate out all the joy we were feeling. Liz sent me the link a couple weeks ago and I just looked at them on repeat during late night nursing sessions until I decided that I just couldn’t handle not sharing some of my favorites. This wedding was the finale wedding for my siblings and there was no better way to go out!

Photographer: Perry Vaile / Event Coordinator: Orpha Events / Venue: Montalto

DoeWedding-007DoeWedding-011DoeWedding-022DoeWedding-027DoeWedding-79bTHIS VEIL. It has been in Liz’s family for generations, worn by every woman. I am such a sucker for traditions and heirlooms and this is one of the most lovely ones ever.DoeWedding-091Special shout-out to my aunt, who stayed up late into the night before the wedding, altering the dress that I bought super large to accommodate the bump that was significantly smaller on the wedding day than we anticipated. DoeWedding-109DoeWedding-120DoeWedding-125DoeWedding-134DoeWedding-160DoeWedding-175DoeWedding-183DoeWedding-309DoeWedding-327DoeWedding-358DoeWedding-366DoeWedding-370DoeWedding-429This little man was a champ. He basically slept and looked precious the whole weekend, making James and I look like good parents who had instilled good behavior in our newborn. HA. Might I recommend taking your one-week-old to a wedding before you take a baby any older? Because the weeks to come revealed a much less docile baby than the one that charmed people at the wedding.DoeWedding-431DoeWedding-434DoeWedding-486DoeWedding-506DoeWedding-567Some of the most beautiful pictures of the most beautiful night!

 

 

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