Taking Stock.

Summer2016-11Summer2016-4Summer2016-7Summer2016-12Summer2016-15Summer2016-18Summer2016-29Summer2016-36Summer2016-39Making : Photo albums from our first four years of marriage. I started this project on our first anniversary… and never got around to actually ordering any of the books.
Cooking : HA. I haven’t cooked more than just simple reheating since Henry was born, thanks to the generosity of our friends, family, and church. The endless string of covered dishes that people have brought our way might be one of my favorite parts of new baby life.
Drinking : Watermelon coolers – recipe coming soon!
Reading: Elena Ferrante’s My Brilliant Friend, but when my “maternity leave” ends next week, it will be back to critical sources for my dissertation while I nurse and rock.
Wanting: .
Looking: Back through the pictures from when James’ family visited this past weekend and met Henry for the first time.
Playing:  Bachelorette recap podcasts and the “4th of July” Pandora station that James has carefully curated over the years – American music at it’s finest.
Wasting: Time when Henry naps and I should be doing productive things, but instead I do things like paint my toenails and read magazines.
Sewing:.Not actually any, but I did contemplate taking in the sides of Henry’s clothes since he is crazy long and skinny. But as that is madness, I am just feeding him lots and willing him to fatten up.
Wishing: Both for Henry to fall asleep quickly for every nap wherever I put him, and for him to only want to sleep in my arms.
Enjoying: Silicon Valley. James and I have really struggled to find a show that we like watching together, especially a good comedy. SV, is proving pretty funny.
Waiting: For Bachelor in Paradise to start- I’m kind of over this season already, in spite of my initial high hopes for JoJo. (Wells- I loved you. I wanted you to be the dark horse contestant, à la Jef from Emily’s season.)
Liking: The period each morning before his first nap where Henry and I just lay in bed and converse about the day, even if I do all the talking and he just makes big eye movements.
Wondering: When he will start smiling at us in response to the many antics that we already do all around him.
Loving: These lactation cookies, partially because they are delicious, partially because they work, and partially because when you call them lactation cookies, no one will try to eat them.
Hoping: That I can get some pool time in sometime soon- my pasty self is in desperate need.
Marveling: At Henry’s tiny hands and how the latch onto my fingers.
Needing: Sleep- always more sleep.
Wearing: Whatever fits- which changes by the day.
Following: Instagrammers who live in Alaska. Not sure why, but their feeds have my heart these days.I especially love this one.
Noticing: That my wardrobe is woefully  not nursing friendly and that my hair is falling out in chunks- thanks, Henry.
Knowing: That all the things that drive me crazy about these newborn days will be over all too soon.
Thinking: How thankful I am that August Recess starts early this year, and that means we get James home a lot more.
Feeling: All of the emotions, all of the time, but mostly feeling happy with how life looks right now. I am exhausted, there is so much stress looming on the horizon, and some days I get overwhelmed with the enormity of the responsibility of parenthood. But in the midst of it all, I am deeply happy.
Bookmarking: Information about flying with babies… Henry and I are taking his first trip next week!

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This & That.

These are the things making me really happy these days.

This video is the happiest thing on the Internet right now. I WANT TO BE IN THAT CAR SO BADLY.

But a confession from a related video: I am the last person on earth to still have not listened to Hamilton. It is almost a badge of pride, like James insisting that he wants to be the last person alive to have not seen Avatar. In this case though, I’m sure I will love it, so I am saving it for a moment when I really need the sort of life boost that only a new Broadway love can deliver.

The “Jam Session” and “Bachelorette Party” podcasts on Channel 33. I mean, I’m still mourning the loss of the dynamic Juliette-Jacobi duo and Food News, but I am warming to Amanda and the pop culture recap.

How to understand Brexit as an American.

Thanks for your Instagram input– I went with these sandals! The others had awesome sole support, but the straps rubbed and I cannot handle blisters.

We are in the best fruit season right now with peaches, nectarines, and cherries filling the aisles. It makes me crave this cherry goat cheese salad and this peach pie.

This face. HenryOneMonth-3I am excited for him to get to the smiley baby stage, but honestly, this grumpy old man stage is the cutest. He is like a disgruntled ginger Winston Churchill all the time and I LOVE IT.

What’s making you happy these days?

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He is not a project.

OnemonthI thrive on productivity. I am the doer of the notecard system, the accomplisher of anything in 5 minutes, the multi-tasker extraordinaire. My life is happily governed by a series of to-do lists and tasks that I can check off and believe me- I do check them off. I love getting things done and moving my life forward in concrete, quantitative, movements. I like schedules and plans and objectives, and that is reflected in my daily life. If I take a leisurely nap, it’s because it was premeditated and planned and I made sure to meet goals beforehand. I squeeze everything possible into every day in alternating waves of fun, leisure, and productivity, a carefully choreographed dance of activity that I genuinely love.

Henry ruins all of that.

I knew he would, and I planned for it. I finished chapter 2 of my dissertation mere hours before checking into the hospital, and I had decided ahead of time to take a solid six weeks off from working, followed by the rest of the summer where I would read for my next chapters, but not write much. I planned to devote the summer months to learning my baby, restoring my body, and adjusting to our new life. Yes, I still knew I would have little things to do, but I was giving myself a pass on the big things. But that was very different in the abstract than it is in the actual.

On one hand, I am doing exactly what I planned. But it feels remarkably different than I imagined, feels unplanned, unstructured, chaotic and unproductive in a way that my life has never been.  I knew I would be taking time off from being professionally productive, but I think that deep down “learning my baby” existed to me as a definite objective to master.

If I was honest, the hardest part of these newborn days is not the exhaustion or the physical recovery or the fear that something will go wrong or even the reality that our life has changed and isn’t ever going back. The hardest part for me is understanding my child as a person to love, not a task to accomplish.

Do not misunderstand me – I love that little long-limbed ginger baby with a fierceness I couldn’t have imagined. But reconciling myself on a daily, hourly, and minute-by-minute basis to the reality of how he needs to be loved is difficult for me. Each day I get up and my default response (to life in general) is “what needs to happen today to move as all closer to ________ (insert a million goals here).” With Henry, it is so tempting to try that. I want to make concrete progress on sleep goals, good scheduling, healthy habits — the list could go on forever. By the end of the day, there is spit-up dried down my shirt, half his naps have been on me while I too napped, and my ambitious maternity leave to-do list has nothing crossed off. By the end of the day, I  worry that I have done nothing to instill “good habits” in my newborn, that I have accomplished nothing that proactively moved my child closer to… to some far off objective of independence and self reliance that I don’t even know how to articulate.

I imagine that this is the common pitfall of Type A moms.  We are addicted to productivity and concrete achievement. Babies throw us through a loop with their utter unpredictability and their ever-changing needs that resist planning.

And so, when I am rocking him endlessly, wondering how I will ever get anything done, feeling like I have done nothing the whole day but cycle in and out of that chair, I repeat it to myself: he is not a project.

When I find myself worrying that we are deviating from our “schedule” and stressing that it will result in a toddler or adolescent someday who is impossible, I repeat it to myself: he is not a project.

When I will the days to pass quickly so that we can meet milestones that make life easier, I chant it in my head like an incantation of this gloriously and tragically short present: he is not a project.

Raising this kid isn’t something that I can just accomplish, something that comes with a prescribed list of steps to work through. Many days, especially these early days, I will get nothing “done” that moves us all closer to any personal goals I have for myself or our family. Instead, we are working on learning each other. I’m focusing on the slow and intangible process of just loving our baby, reminding myself that richer things come from these days than a completed list of accomplishments.

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Early essentials.

Henryweekone-34Yesterday Henry turned one month old, so basically we are old pros at the parenting thing.

HA.

Pretty much we still have no clue what we are doing, resulting in the tried and true method of “this worked once so maybe try it again?” that has lead to the ridiculous amount of parenting books and methods that exist. Yes, everything has worked for someone at some time, and no, that doesn’t mean you should base a highly specific philosophy about something that worked in one Hail Mary moment. But I digress! A couple months ago, I asked you fine people for advice on what to put on our registry, and you all sent me so many good suggestions. I went through them all and made myself a giant spreadsheet with the common denominators. Many of the things we got we still haven’t used yet, as the newborn phase is its own special beast.

I wanted to share a list of the things that have proven so helpful to us in this first month. They are not, of course, “essential” as the title says, as few things in life truly are. One of the moms at our church told me that all you really need for a baby is a place for them to sleep and a way to transport them, and then anything else you “need” can be found in the baby aisle at the grocery store. She’s right. But these are the things that have been making our newborn days just a tad easier.

Swaddles. I have heard that there are babies who don’t like being swaddled, and while Henry protests as we are swaddling, the actual state of being swaddled has a voodoo like power over him. We love these Velcro swaddles and these great swaddle blankets, which we also use for a million other baby purposes.  (And I just saw this, which I am super into, as I am already sad that we have to lose the swaddle when Henry can roll over.)

Wubbanub. I was very holier-than-thou when my mom suggested we give a pacifier during the first couple days. No, I insisted, it will ruin his breastfeeding ability, blah blah blah. But when I informed the pediatrician at his one week checkup that I had fed him almost 20 times the day before, she just gaped at me and asked why I hadn’t just given him a pacifier. Thus begin Henry’s love affair with his wubbanub, which has comforted him in many an important moment. I am fully aware that someone is ripping me off by overcharging for a pacifier that just has a sub-par stuffed animal attached to it, but I do not care.

Quiche. Yes, Henry isn’t eating quiche. But a couple people brought us quiche in those early weeks and it was a lifesaver. When you have all of 2 minutes to make breakfast and then eat it one-handed while a baby screams and you just desperately need to stave off those hunger pains with something substantial- quiche to the rescue.

Rock-n-play. A lot of people recommended the Rock-n-play and someone passed on their old one to us. We have used that in lieu of a bassinet and it fits nicely beside our bed for Henry to sleep. Yes, I know that it is a “sleep prop” and that we might have a difficult transition to the crib later… but I also know that it has facilitated surprisingly good nighttime sleep in our newborn, so I am giving it all the heart eye emojis. Plus, I loved what this website had to say about using swings to help teach babies to sleep.

Gerber onesies. We birthed a long and skinny baby who quickly couldn’t get his lengthy torso in newborn clothes, but is swimming in all 0-3 month options. The generic Gerber onesies are pretty much the only thing that fits, and thus- he wears them allllll the time. I just tell him that it is a classic look that never goes out of style.

Nursing pillow. I, like everyone, registered for a Boppy, thinking I would use it to nurse, and almost instantly finding that it worked terribly for that, though it does serve other purposes. Meanwhile, a friend passed on this pillow, and I dutifully carry it around the house with Henry. It actually supports a baby while nursing to give your back a break, but also supports him when I want to read books and rock, or even sit at my desk and work, while he lies across my lap atop the pillow. (He is actually doing that as I type this.)

Changing station. A lot of people said not to get a changing table, and that they just change diapers wherever. Please tell me how your children are so neat in their bodily excretions. I can’t imagine not having a defined and contained location for both mess and supplies. We just assembled one atop an Ikea dresser that houses all his stuff, but it is vital to me feeling organized and keeping the house relatively clean.

Rocking chair. My mom insisted that we needed one, and she was so right. I spend lots of hours nursing, singing, rocking, and staring all googly eyed at our boy.

Stroller. Henry loves napping in his stroller in the 100% humidity, because DC in the summer is basically like my womb. It was our big baby splurge, but we have spent hours each day pushing him around the city in our stroller. He sleeps, I feel like a human out in society, everybody wins.

Add to this the nine million diapers and burp cloths that we cycle through, as well as the friends and family who have stepped up to help at every turn, and you have what’s getting us through the days.

 

 

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New Normal.

Henryweekone-35June2016-4June2016-5june23June2016-10June2016-13June2016-14June2016-17June2016-20parkI kept on looking for a good moment to sit down and type out a nice thoughtful blog post about life these days, but that moment never came. Or it did come, and it seemed a whole lot more important to actually go to the bathroom or eat something with two hands or shower. The new normal in our life has many fewer moments for waxing poetic on the Internet, but I’m ok with that. The new normal is an endless process of banal observations that seem life changing, little victories, and new experiences.

All pregnancy, it was hard to know what to get excited about when I thought about this baby actually being with us. I am not actually a “baby person,” not someone who has always been enthralled with infants. What do you do with a baby? While I love kids, babies were somewhat of a foreign entity- adorable in the abstract but mysterious. Yet I did know that I would love strolling around the city with our little boy, and this has proven true. We get in a walk of at least a couple hours every day, strolling with friends or just wandering Capitol Hill on our own. The humidity has magical power over our heat-loving boy and he usually falls asleep within minutes of being out in the swampy DC summer, ensuring this mama some calm and an excuse to be out and about. When James was off for paternity leave last week it was especially wonderful, wandering our neighborhood as a family of three.

I also looked forward to leisurely snuggling with my quietly sleeping babe.  Sometimes this happens, and it is wonderful. Other times, that babe is far from quietly sleeping, and the snuggle is more of a pace/bounce/panic embrace. And other times, I snuggle away, all while fighting nagging whispers from Babywise  or other sleep-training books that I should be forcing him to sleep on his own instead of in my arms. I struggled with this a lot over the past couple weeks, trying to balance the tension between wanting to start instilling good habits in him now in every domain, and wondering how much you can “teach” a newborn, and wouldn’t it be better to just cherish where he is at? So we have been snuggling our days away for the most part, and taking a little firmer stance at night, which has mostly worked.

There are  so many words to describe these first four weeks of learning how to be Henry’s parents. Fear, as I still panic at least once or twice a night and shine a flashlight in his face to see if he’s alive, often following it with a poke if he was sleeping too peacefully. Joy, as watching him experience even the tiniest milestones (eye contact! tummy time! baths!) has us squealing. Exhaustion, as sometimes I think that I just can’t wake up for another early morning feeding. Disgust, because babies are really gross. Stress, because I wonder how I will ever get anything done again and HOW IS THERE SO MUCH LAUNDRY FROM SUCH A TINT PERSON?

But mostly wonder. Wonder at this little life that is entrusted to us, at this little body that is so tiny and pure, but growing stronger each day. At this soul that trusts us so completely and this human who gets to be a new chance for something good in the world. Four weeks in and we are in total wonder at our baby boy.

 

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Late night reading roundup.

juneI spend at least 40% of my time these days sitting with Henry in my arms, either nursing, or incapable of moving because he is sleeping so peacefully and I just can’t put him down. I know that eventually (read: “next week when James is back at work so I will officially be solo for the first time”), I will have to just put him down and let him cry so I can get some things done, but we just aren’t there yet. My captive position gives me lots of time for scrolling through my phone, reading the entirety of the Internet and pondering all sorts of weighty and trivial matters. Should you also find yourself trapped somewhere in need of some distraction, here are some of my late night cyber wanderings.

Building a quality and ethical children’s wardrobe. Ok, so really I just love all of Mary’s posts and the things she shares make me extra excited to be a boy mom.

Beautiful photos, recipes, and ramblings that made me cry, which is the right thing to do.

Obsessed with this Old Navy Shirt dress, because NURSING and shirt dresses that actually work for wide hipped women!

On that note, when I needed to wear nursing friend attire for the wedding a couple weeks ago, I quickly realized that my wardrobe is not at all nursing friendly. Christine kindly loaned me this nursing (and bump!) friendly dress and I am thinking I might need to buy one of my own – maybe in mint or teal?

I’m in the market for good summer sandals that I can wear with everything and walk for miles. I have always been emphatically not a sandal person, so this is uncharted territory for me. Any suggestions? I have my eyes on these and these and these and these . So really my eyes are all over the place.

And the last shopping link, but I am a devoted sunscreen wearer and always in the market for better blends. During one lengthy feeding session, I made it through the issue of Real Simple that I have been carrying in my purse for a month and discovered this sunscreen mist that you can spray over your makeup. Finding that someone has invented something I constantly wish existed is the best feeling ever.

What good is it being queen at 90 if you can’t wear lime green and freak everyone out?

Sometimes, instead of sitting with my phone, James and I stay up and watch TV when Henry is asleep which I know is stupid stupid stupid because we are losing precious opportunities to sleep. But we just can’t resist the call of chilling on the couch together and not focusing on the baby for a couple minutes. We just started watching Sherlock Holmes, and we are already distressed that there aren’t many episodes. Any recommendations for similar mystery shows?

Loved reading these reflections on “scruffy hospitality”.

I re-read or re-listen to this about once every other year, I found myself thinking about it in the midst of another late night feeding, when I was nodding off and just desperately wanted to go back to sleep. This is water, I told myself, this is water.

Happy (almost) weekend!

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A world without artifacts.

137-HW062016I didn’t need Marie Kondo to tell me to get rid of half my stuff.

My mom is a master purger and she taught me well. Space, light, absence of clutter — these things are their own reward and it is worth sacrificing your stuff to obtain them. I routinely cull through my belongings to eliminate things that are unwanted, unused, or out of place. Living in a small apartment in a big city has taught us that minimalism has to be a lifestyle to avoid feeling suffocated by our stuff. We aren’t as sparse as some are, but we do resist having things around that aren’t useful or loved.

This means that there isn’t a lot of space in our lives for sentimental stuff. I don’t keep t-shirts because they are from some college event that I loved, and I read and love letters — and then have to throw them away. Cards are enjoyed and then tossed, momentos are studied and then abandoned. Memories are what matter, I preach. Things are just things, I practice. My phone and computer are filled with photos of the moments I want to hold onto, but I keep physical traces of these moments as trim as possible. And as a result, I feel at peace in my home, uncluttered physically and mentally.24-HW06201623-HW062016

My dad is a professor of Old Testament and has been working on establishing a center for archeological studies at the seminary where he teaches. He frequently participates in digs in the Holy Land and he can regale you with stories of pottery fragments, vases, and other old things that take on a whole new meaning when they are slowly removed from layers of sacred dirt. Artifacts, traces of another world, pieces of time that pass from one era to the next — that is what he loves.  These remnants hold stories within themselves.39-HW06201651-HW062016

We don’t have much from my dad’s childhood, no saved old clothes or childhood toys. When his mother died while I was in college, a family friend helped my mom go through some things from my grandmother’s home and she found a tiny baby bracelet. She kept it and gave it to me at my baby shower in Kentucky, a tiny beaded bracelet with his name on it, mounted in a little box. I have that box sitting on a shelf in Henry’s room, the only artifact we have from my dad’s early years. On one hand, it doesn’t matter. It isn’t valuable, not having it doesn’t change the fact that he was born, and it is just another thing to sit around. But it is just a little artifact of his childhood, and it stops me every time I walk past. 56-HW06201658-HW062016

It started towards the end of my pregnancy, this desire to save things. I couldn’t bring myself to toss out the invitations to the showers people threw for our baby, and I started folding blankets and tiny outfits  to stock the dresser and they seemed immeasurably precious even before they ever touched our little son. I started imagining the years of school projects and favorite stuffed animals and firsts that I would want to cherish forever. 15-HW062016

And now? Now I find myself grasping at all the physical traces of his birth and his life. I have a stack on my desk of his hospital bracelets, the card that was stuck in his rolling bassinet, the little cap and blanket he had when they put him in my arms. Our minimalist life has no place for these things, but my heart has no way to toss them out. I have a post-it note on the counter that just says “memory box for H,” because I am desperate not to let these early weeks disappear. I want to gather up all the physical traces from them, every remnant, and box them up in a desperate attempt to save something from the effects of time.henrynewborn

Because the truth that runs deep in our culture, in direct opposition to rampant materialism, is that things are just things. That they don’t matter, that they are replaceable. We horde digital things, but they usually don’t cross the threshold into physicality. Photos go un-printed, emails replace letters, and we are left with nothing to hold in our hands of the beautiful and real lives that we are living. Things are seen as just things and so we forget that sometimes they are so much more.101-HW06201697-HW062016113-HW062016

We are living in a world without artifacts, without relics, without a value placed on saving tokens of everyday existence and believing that they are powerful. We are both horders and purgers, but very rarely treasurers. I didn’t think about this much until I started watching the days slip by in Henry’s life and I started wondering how I can save them – what I can save of them.133-HW062016

My mom spent the past two weeks with us, and along with taking care of our every need, she brought the notebook that she filled with memories from my first year of life. She and I laughed over those entries, and cried over them too. She was able to share a part of myself with me that she knows better than I ever could.

Because that’s what everyday objects, everyday memories, become if you preserve them: artifacts that can recreate the past. Yes, I want our lives to be free from the clutter of too much stuff. But watching my son change by the day also reminds me that I want a life free from clutter, but commemorated by some special stuff. A life marked by artifacts that hold these days within themselves, that allow me to touch the past once it’s gone.

Because go it will, no matter how tightly I want to hold on. Henrynewborn2

*These photos also help preserve baby Henry at 6 days old and they are by the ridiculously talented Alumbra Photography, baby whisperer extraordinaire.

 

 

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