5 months is my favorite.

henryfivemonths_004henryfivemonths_007Henry turned 5 months old a couple weeks ago and y’all- 5 months is the absolute best age. I know that I will probably say that at all sorts of moments throughout his childhood, but I really, really, REALLY mean it right now.

There are so many people who tell you to “enjoy every minute of the ________ stage.” Especially when he was a newborn, people would tell me that when I bemoaned the sleepless nights, constant feeding, etc. They are right about some of it, and there are some aspects of those sleepy early days that I miss. It felt so confining at the time, but when they are newborns, you aren’t perpetually worried about throwing off nap schedules or bedtimes, schlepping them along wherever. They are squishy and tiny and fit just perfectly against your chest… but they are also so needy and unpredictable and terrifyingly fragile. People tell you that to encourage you, but sometimes it sounds like a prison sentence, if they tell you that when you are having one of those rough, sobbing-while-you-bounce-the-baby, sleep deprived,  I just need a break and won’t get one for the next 18 years sort of days. And that’s pretty much always when someone tells you that. Not only do you have to survive something difficult — but you are a bad mother if you don’t enjoy it. henryfivemonths_015henryfivemonths_011

5 months is so much more fun. I really enjoy him now, not just love him. He laughs and engages, plays and expresses opinions. He is discovering things, like how to blow bubbles in his oatmeal cereal, or how to trill his voice. Every discovery is THE BEST THING EVER to him and watching it is THE BEST THING EVER to us. He is ticklish, less breakable, enthusiastic, and still has zero problems with us passing him off to anyone else, which means other people get to enjoy 5 month-Henry too. He can entertain himself just long enough for me to complete simple tasks, but still isn’t mobile enough to really fight back if I need to stick him somewhere longer to get something done.henryfivemonths_009

And he is so, so, much easier than 4 months. I’m not sure how it seems so much different than even just a couple weeks ago, but it’s like something clicked at 5 months, and he sleeps better, is happier when awake, and generally more pleasant to be around and take places. There are still lots of hard moments, but I’m not sending panicked texts to James begging him to come home early anymore. I don’t hold him and weep while I try to rock him to sleep or take a shower so I can cry in peace because it is just hard. I don’t second-guess every single decision, and am more capable of having a day of losses without it ruin me. And yes, I know that as recently as about a month ago this baby had me at my wits end. But a month in baby time is an ETERNITY. He is a totally different baby who has already taught me to be a totally different mom. If it sounds confusing to talk about such difficulty, when I have shared so many happy moments on here or on Instagram, just know that neither is false. For me at least, those early baby months were some of the highest highs, punctuated by some of the lowest lows. Moments of total elation punctuated by feelings of utter failure. 5 months feels so good partially because it feels more consistent, more stable, like I am less likely to be derailed by one rough day, rough hour, rough moment. henryfivemonths_023henryfivemonths_019

I haven’t really done detailed updates about Henry at each month on here because it seems like some things are better kept private and I’m still sorting out how much to share about him on this blog. I am totally fine baring my soul about what it means to be a mom, but I try to balance how much of Henry’s life gets shared. But I do want to remember all that is happening. Every couple weeks, I type and save a letter about what he’s doing, how he’s changing, sleeping, eating, liking, etc. I usually end up flicking back and reading some from the early days too, marveling at how he’s grown. I reread my struggles from the earlier months, letters that talk about sleepless nights, issues with milk supply, tears, but tiny triumphs too. It is a joy to read of him changing as a human, but also me growing into the role of being his mother.Those letters are impossibly precious and better private.  But I did want to throw a quickly share a 5 month post to mark the fact that 5 months is so, so good. If you are wading through those exhausting newborn weeks and feeling annoyed when someone tells you to enjoy something that is really hard, let me tell you:

5 months is coming. And it is awesome. henryfivemonths_024

[Note: Henry owns bear suits instead of coats, which means that this winter will pretty much be one long costume party over here. I am totally ok with this.]

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The tiniest of elephants.

I’m sure you were just holding your breath and hoping for an entire post of Henry as a baby elephant, weren’t you?fall2016-128Live to serve, that’s the motto over here.

Halloween for a baby is kind of pointless. It’s not like he can eat candy, much less walk door to door. And even if James had let me shamelessly amass mountains of Reese’s on Henry’s behalf, I really don’t need to consume piles of candy.

BUT COSTUMES.fall2016-130fall2016-125So much of having a first baby seems like it is about endless clothing changes and a deep and abiding compulsion to wear all the tiny outfits. If you follow along over on Instagram, you know that I just can’t stop dressing Henry like a tiny bear to go outside. I call it practical (no need to fetch hat, shoes, gloves, etc, when you can just slip into a whole bear suit!), James calls it obsession. Whatever it is, I was thrilled to force Henry to become a tiny member of the animal kingdom for a day… or several, as I just keep on making him wear it around before he grows out of it.fall2016-138fall2016-123Friday night we hit Hilloween, the street festival in Eastern Market where all the area school’s have PTO booths selling tasty treats. It’s basically the yuppiest of Halloween festivals imaginable and I loved it. I was especially warmed by the willingness of so many father’s to dress like giant snowmen, the Olaf to their toddler daughters’ Elsa’s and Anna’s. I scoped out some good costume ideas for next year and we made sure to get pictures with Henry and his best friend Ava, who was a lion. The children were less than enthused about photos by that point, but we persevered. fall2016-139fall2016-142fall2016-144On Monday night we made sure to hit the Pretzel Bakery, where everyone in costume got a free pretzel. Henry generously shared his with me, as he is sticking with a mostly liquid diet for the moment and keeping a careful eye on his figure. We wandered down East Capitol Street for awhile and I was thrilled that a) so many houses went all out in decorating for the kids, including a house that did their entire gardens as Hogwarts, car-in-the-trees, floating candles and all and b) lots of kids were actually trick or treating. It seems like Halloween is more and more of an adult holiday, one that Americans spent more on in 2012 than the presidential election that year. I miss the days when I was a kid and I rummaged up a Halloween costume and went all over town with my friends, coming home to engage in a vicious battle of candy bartering with my brothers. I was so happy to see the streets packed with kids, most of whom were in the innocent sort of costumes I grew up with, rather than the bloody disturbing ones.fall2016-131fall2016-120Henry didn’t make it out for long, losing an elephant foot (paw? hoof?) in the process. But for a brief while, he was the tiniest elephant, taking on Capitol Hill, and I was the very happiest of moms, even managing to snag a couple pieces of candy on his behalf.fall2016-133

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Best practices.

fall2016-38fall2016-45A couple weeks ago we had a really rough week around here. Henry had a couple nights of awful sleep, and then I inexplicably had a couple nights of terrible insomnia, and our babysitter was out of town so I tried squeezing work in all the little spare moments throughout the week instead of my concentrated two days. The result was escalating exhaustion, tension, and anxiety that finally exploded in a massive Saturday morning sob fest. During one park date where I was so tired,  and I told my friend Anna that I was sucking at being a mom that week. She corrected me to point out that I was only sucking at enjoying being a mom. So true.

On the whole, I would say that we have been doing pretty well over here since Henry’s arrival-thanks in large part to the buckets of help extended by our near and dear. But a couple weeks ago? There was definitely a couple days where I was not, not, NOT doing ok. I hate that feeling, that slipping-out-of-control-too-tired-to-function-weepy feeling, but it did prompt some constructive reflections on what wasn’t working in our lives, what needed to change, and what little things made days better. I took a couple weeks off blogging (what?? You didn’t even notice?? Ouch.), which I rarely do, but it seemed the healthy and wise thing to invest time elsewhere. I’ve been reveling in these best practices over the past couple weeks, keeping them around me like a buffer from rising stress and they have helped – even in the miss of busyness and travel. In the spirit of the life hacks I shared last spring, here are the best practices of now.
Go back to what really worked. After Henry was born, I felt that it was impossible to lay out concrete goals for every day, because who knew WHAT the day would bring, whether naps would happen, etc. My beloved notecard system seemed out of touch with our current reality. But things change, babies grow, naps evolve and stabilize, and I realized that I needed to go back to that system to be more productive and avoid getting overwhelmed with tasks coming later in the week.

Constant Nesting. Everything in my life is better when my space is pleasant. One night I went to Target after Henry was in bed and spent way too long browsing, and way too much money purchasing, candles. But you know what? Lighting pretty candles around my home on gray days and in the evenings makes me love being here more. It soothes me, makes me look forward to hunkering down and working. I vacuum every other day, keep things tidy, and have flowers or seasonal decor from time to time, because I know that my mind reflects my space and if one is cluttered and ugly, the other will be too.

Indulge in habits. I have worked on loving the little habits that fill my days, thinking about them and anticipating them. Crap night where none of us slept? Good thing I get to have coffee in my favorite cup in the morning. Too much work to do? Luckily I can look forward to an afternoon in my favorite coffee shop to tackle it. Wrapping pleasant routines around unpleasant realities makes all the difference in how I move through my days.

Chug that water. I have ALWAYS been a water chugger… but somehow the busyness (and recent coffee love?) have basically relegated me to a state of constant dehydration, which is definitely not ok while nursing. I’m trying to make myself chug water before coffee, when I pass through the kitchen, before nursing, etc. It seems silly, but the mere act of intense hydration makes everything in life better.

Sleep like a baby. I am so obsessed with baby sleep information. I love reading about sleep cycles, sleep developments, associations, object permanence, etc. It doesn’t always result in Henry sleeping, but it does mean that I usually know the scientific reasons why he isn’t and there is comfort in that. But one day, I had that light-bulb moment where I realized that I basically sleep like Henry. Too tired? WON’T SLEEP. Not tired enough? WON’T SLEEP. Bedtime not almost exactly the same every night? FORGET ABOUT IT. I’m trying to be better about having better bedtime habits because my sleep has a direct impact on everything else.

We are doing better around here now. A couple weeks of better sleep and best practices has me feeling calmer and happier in everyday life. This is a pattern that repeats itself so much in life. Things are good, we stop focusing on what makes them good, they spiral out of control, regroup. Repeat. But hopefully the cataloging of what makes life work will make the good cycles last every longer and longer.

What are some of the best practices you fall back on when life gets hard?

 

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This & That.

It’s Friiiidddaayyyy!!! I used to wonder why SAHM’s got so excited about the weekend because I was like, um, it’s the same as all your other days. BUT IT IS NOT. Because on the weekend, Other Parent is there to help and and join you in adoring the offspring. This week started with a couple really rough sleep nights for Henry, followed by inexplicably rough sleep nights for me, and my working from home just proved difficult(nonexistent?). But! It’s Friday! Tonight James and I are being classier than our usual go-to of wine and Homeland on the couch and are instead going out to dinner and the theater. Don’t we sound fancy? Don’t be too impressed. The Shakespeare Theater Company has a CRAZY good deal for season tickets if you are under 35, and thus we are officially patrons of the arts this year and will enjoy 6 plays for roughly the same price as 6 3d movies. Tomorrow I will then spend the day writing and researching at a coffee shop and hopefully making up for the piles of work I didn’t get done this week. Hopefully.

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An important part of getting things done is taking a picture of the spot in which you plan to get things done.

But though chunks of concentrated dissertating time proved elusive this week, minutes to waste on reading and watching all sorts of things were in good supply. Here’s a quick roundup for your weekend:

I shall require this cocktail as soon as possible.  And while you are over there salivating for it, you should roam around because Megan’s little boy is the cutest and Henry aspires to be as stylish as him.

This makes me so happy to be a Pirates fan, even if this season was not the finest.

The common denominators among mothers who thrive versus survive. This one hit hard, as I have been doing some surviving over thriving recently.

Some things that we have been loving in the kitchen lately: this zucchini and corn pie because I like to have quiches on hand for quick breakfasts,  this mac n’ cheese for a block party that we organized with some neighbors, and I made the first tortilla soup of soup season!

As I think that Up might be one of the greatest animated classics, I loved this.

I was hardcore into drama in high school, and so this was absolutely hysterical to me. In general, SNL is the best part of presidential election years… and especially this year. We laugh to keep from crying, eh?

In a world where so much divides, let us let the impossible goodness of Kate’s Canadian tour wardrobe bring us together.

Happy weekend!

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From the trenches: Getting Dressed.

harperandbayfall2016-50fall2016-56fall2016-62fall2016-71fall2016-74fall2016-75Once upon a time, I wrote about how getting dressed was the easiest part of my day, thanks to a deep closet purge and some months of healthy living that had me loving my wardrobe and being able to wear it to its full potential.

Oh those long gone days.

Because now, getting dressed is the absolute worst, which might explain why I try to do it as infrequently as possible, changing from pajamas into variations on the dayjama, otherwise known as the momiform of leggings and tees. I used to snottily wonder why so many moms out and about were consistently wearing athleisure instead of real clothes… but now I know.

When I behold my closet, it is like the world’s saddest Venn Diagram. Finding something that fits reduces the wardrobe by half, something that I actually like knocks out another chunk, is seasonally appropriate reduces the number still, and lastly – can I nurse in it? This leaves about 3 outfits in the middle of these treacherous overlapping circles, and if Henry hasn’t spit up on all three in succession by the time I leave the house- truly, I deserve a medal. So many days it is just easier to grab my favorite trusty leggings and then burn through t-shirts as he destroys one after another.

And then of course, there is Henry’s wardrobe. I utterly failed at building a baby wardrobe. Yes, he has many animal costumes, and yes, he has lots of adorable clothes that were given to us- especially for 0-3 months. But now he is 4.5 months.  I didn’t really think through entire outfits as I was filling in the gaps between what was given which means he routinely looks like he was dressed by a toddler who could only select things from a thrift bin.

But luckily, I can always fall back on just tossing a receiving blanket over him in the stroller and pop on a hat with ears and know that people will think he’s cute.

The same approach does not work for a grown woman.

Which is why I made James take all these pictures of me last Sunday when my hair was done, I had accessories, my shoes were stylish over practical, and I was rocking my absolute favorite dress of late. Only this last element happens on a regular basis.  Not only is it the softest lightweight sweatshirt material, basically like wearing a stylish, well-worn hoodie, but it is a universally flattering cut. And – that seam across the top? It is a tiny hidden zipper. MAGIC. Most nursing attire has to pull up/pull down/unbotton/ etc, and I just get tired of it. I had to restrain myself from buying everything from this company because hidden zippers for president.

Dear fellow women in the postpartum trenches: how do you face the closet every day? Other than this dress, the other things I swear by are this tank top under everything and these high-waisted jeans. Pricey yes, but you can shove all those extra ponds in, believe, and zip. Share with me your secrets about looking amazing in the trenches of parenthood. Bonus points if you have secrets for the most versatile baby clothes.

Oh, and lest the above photos give an overly rosy impression of life and have you thinking that this might become one of those shiny, well-polished blogs of maternal perfection- most of the shots looked like this:fall2016-60

Double chins- who wore it best? Him, definitely him. And yes, he did spit up all over me as soon as this shot was taken. Back inside and into my leggings and tee I went!

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Taste of DC

Last year James and I were on a long evening walk when we came upon a street festival in downtown DC. It was the Taste of Dc festival, and we stood against the chain-linked fence and wished that we could be among the merry masses munching on tiny samples of  some of DC’s restaurants. Next year, we swore, next year we will go.

A couple weeks ago I thought of that festival and looked it up and saw that it was this weekend. We decided that it would be a perfect dinner date with Henry along, as it is an outdoor festival with continual walking around, lots of noise, and enough happening to keep our extroverted baby happy during the witching hour.

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And so we set out! We had to change Henry’s clothes twice during the time that it took to unload the stroller and pay the parking meter, but alas we were off!

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Within 5 minutes, I was eating this mac n’ cheese in utter rapture about its perfection. The cheese sauce was made out of squash (!!!) and it was unreal.

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Henry was not impressed.

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James pretty much did a tour de BBQ.

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And I joined in because this is basically everything good about a BBQ joint all stacked on top of each other.

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Henry was still not impressed.

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And then I saw this sign:

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AND A MAN WITH A BLOWTORCH MADE ME A SALTED CARAMEL DARK CHOCOLATE GIANT S’MORE.

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Henry felt pretty certain that his hand was tastier than any s’more could ever be.

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He also decided that his fancy pants (y)Uppababy stroller was no longer sufficient a chariot and that he would rather ride in the free, hand-me-down BabyBjorn.

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It had been rainy and cold all day, but as we wandered the food stalls and stuffed our faces with deliciousness, the sky suddenly turned like this for about 5 gloriously vibrant moments.

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Henry began to gently communicate that he was ready for that sweet, sweet bedtime that we have been convincing him to love.

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So we headed home, bellies full and hearts happy. DC, you sure tasted good!

 

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The 3 of us.

october2Because I don’t want to forget the little details of how things are right now.

James// Makes sure there is always good music on in our house, usually jazz or classic rock. Is uncannily good at guessing every plot twist to Homeland. Loves the new 7/11 that just opened near us because it means tasty slurpies. Is the best at getting Henry to smile.

Hannah// Loves our neighborhood all over again now that Henry gets to explore it too. Vacuums almost every day. Can fold up and put away the stroller with one hand. Has a renewed love of Emile Zola. Worries about finishing her dissertation and finding a job. Misses teaching, but loves this semester with more time home with Henry. Finally feels like life is about thriving now instead of surviving.

Henry// Recently started playing peek-a-boo. Likes to pat his own head while he nurses. Tries to imitate the wookie sounds that James is quite good at making. Hates having his clothes changed. Has no interest in crawling but really wants to walk. Always sleeps on his side. Likes to practice trilling his voice… very loudly… late at night. Has a ginger mullet that gets more prominent every day. Loves snuggling and wishes that his parents would let him sleep with blankets over his face because it makes things so cozy.

 

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