Greener Pastures

Sometimes, during one of many nightly nursing sessions, I will grab my phone and peruse the ol’ Facebook. I know it’s not a great idea to use electronic devices when I should otherwise be focused on getting much-needed rest at 1 am or 3am or 5am. But…I suppose I like knowing that, perhaps, there is someone else updating or viewing the masses at a shameful hour when I would much rather be sleeping.

Social media has, sadly, become my primary mode of communication with loved ones from afar, and lately I have been impressed and excited at the accomplishments of so many of my comrades. My respect has grown for friends earning advanced degrees, opening clinics, and starting firms. I am amazed by friends getting published, running marathons, traveling the globe, and even climbing Everest. I am silently fist-bumping friends performing groundbreaking research, earning promotions and achieving other impressive feats. And yet, one very early morning while skimming through these awe-inducing updates, you know what I did?  I’ll tell you. I checked my elbow…for poop. Turning away from the glowing screen of my phone, I interrupted another slideshow of the sights of Europe and inspected the crook of my arm while wondering, “…is that…is that baby shit?” (apologies for cussing…)

Fortunately, it was not the mustardy product of my baby’s alimentary tract, but some other mystery substance (dried food? A booger bequeathed by our thoughtful toddler?). And in that moment of checking myself for filth, in that moment of exhaustion, I felt….ENVY.

Now, I’m not proud to admit this. I have many flaws, but I’ve never considered myself a jealous person. That is not to say I don’t GET jealous – I am a human and a female who has mastered the art of self-deprecation, after all. But I am fortunate to have been raised to appreciate the simple and important things in life. I fancy myself a happy, grateful realist with sensible expectations. There aren’t a lot of “things” I pine after, because I know I have everything I NEED, and am incredibly fortunate to be in this position. I am not one to rush to get the newest phone or the hottest brand because I am generally indifferent about such things and also woefully and incredibly out-of-touch at my ripe age of 30. I take pride – and solace – in knowing I am not somebody with a “keeping up with the Jones’” mentality.

And yet, during Olaver’s 3am feeding, with the somber, artificial glow of the phone screen illuminating my mismatched pajamas, while physically FEELING the bags under my eyes becoming more pronounced every passing second, and after contemplating the origins of my unknown elbow crud – I caught a virulent strain of the Grass-Is-Always-Greener bug.

Why isn’t my name headlining the newest issue of the New England Journal of Medicine? When was the last time I ran – or even worked out for that matter? Why can’t I be on a beach somewhere?
Suddenly, and wholly inappropriately, I felt deprived. Disappointed. Sure I have two, beautiful, healthy kids….sure, I have a great husband…sure I have a roof over my head and food in the fridge and a great job and a loving, supportive family and a nice, reliable vehicle and all of my limbs and my eyesight and most of my sanity and I don’t have Ebola, but….but…

You get the idea. I’m going to give myself way too much credit and blame it on the sleep deprivation – and the elbow residue – but the reality is, in that moment, I was begrudgingly and unnecessarily envious. Fortunately, I quickly got over my jealousy. The two tiny people we created are a regular, refreshing reminder I am a lucky duck. To ensure I avoid such envy-induced pity parties in the future, however, I have created a pithy list of three often overlooked reasons why OUR lawn is greener than everybody else’s:

(1) No more lonely bathroom breaks
When you are voiding your bladder, do you ever think to yourself, “Gosh, I wish someone was here to keep me company!” Well, here I am getting all braggy, but I NEVER have that problem anymore.
The children can be playing quietly, peacefully, without any indications of upcoming disturbance, but as soon as nature calls for their mother, all heck breaks loose. I don’t make it a habit of providing details of my potty breaks, but the general synopsis goes something like this:

[Hazel is reading book, while Olaver plays peacefully in center of living room rug with no dangerous,pointy, or choke-hazardous materials within a 60 foot radius]
“Hazel, I have to pee, I’ll be right back, okay? Keep an eye on Olaver.”
“Okay, Mommy.”
[Eight seconds go by as I walk 18 feet away into bathroom]
“Mommy, I need you!!!”
“Just a second, please.”
“Mom, where ARRREE YOU???” (sprints into bathroom) “Oh, are you going pee?”
“I was going to, yes.”
[Olaver starts crying and I hear the familiar plodding of baby hands and dragging baby knees across the wood floor as he furiously crawls down hall and into bathroom]
“Hi, Olaver, give me 5 seconds, I just have to pee, and…”
[Olaver crawls over – pulls himself up onto my knees while Hazel tries to flush toilet while I’m still peeing]
“Mommy, can I see what color underwear you’re wearing today?”
“Not right now, please, just….Olaver, please get down…Hazel, I need you to back up so I can…”
“Do you need to wipe your butt, Mommy?”
“Yes, just…Olaver, I just need to set you down for a second, okay?”
[Baby starts screaming and crying as I try to pry him off my knee so I can take advantage of the modern miracle of toilet paper]
“Mommy, Olaver is crying REALLY loud!”
“Yes, I know, I’m done now I’m just going to wash my hands, okay?”
“Can I flush the toilet?”
“Sure, just…OLAVER!! Stay away from the toilet, please!”
“Olaver is trying to put his hand in the toilet, Mom! HA! That is so funny, Olaver!”
[42 seconds have lapsed, there is now a toddler I have to coax out of the bathroom and an infant whose hands need sanitized]

END SCENE

(2) 24 hour ambiance
I have had to sleep with a fan on for as long as I can remember. I have the same white, plastic, oscillating fan from when I was in elementary school and for some weird reason I hope it lasts at least another 20 years. How cool would it be if I could pass it along to one of our children? Upon moving dear Olaver into his freshman dorm, crying and hugging would ensue. After saying lots of sentimental and inspiring things, I would exclaim, “Wait! We can’t leave until I give you this!” and I would pass over the beloved fan that, at this point would be an antique, and he would wipe his eye and say, “You have no idea how much this means to me, Mom,” and all of his roommates would be SO jealous.

Future showstopper of Antiques Roadshow

Future showstopper of Antiques Roadshow

People spend all sorts of dollars on noise machines – but we have two INCREDIBLE noise machines that you cannot find at Brookstone. The noise settings include, but are not limited to:
Crying, screaming, laughing, coughing, farting, gagging, squealing, robot noises, babbling, hiccupping, yelling, arguing, gibberish, clapping, stomping, running, crawling, multiple animal noises, and slamming of unknown objects, among other options. These machines are unpredictable, you can’t choose what sound you want, there is no adjustment for volume, and they generally turn on at their loudest setting at inopportune moments, BUT – they work 24 hours a day and are undeniably cute.

Note: Photo does not accurately capture the earbleed-inducing squeals from the daily 'headlock or snuggle?' session.

Note: Photo does not accurately capture the earbleed-inducing squeals from the daily ‘headlock or snuggle?’ session.

(3) Classy Home Décor
There is a house a half mile or so down our road I call the “Texas Chainsaw Massacre” house. It’s creepy for so many reasons, and it doesn’t help that on the rare instances we see the residents outdoors, they don’t wave or smile or make eye contact because, obviously, they have to get back to work hiding the bodies of trespassers. Anyway, they always have a lot of crap in their yard. I find it curious why people keep so much crap in their yard, but while driving past a few days ago I noticed a mirror that looked JUST like a fancy-pants mirror I saw in a Pottery Barn catalogue priced at $600. I mean, if mirrors had doppelgangers, this was IT. I thought about asking the homeowners if the mirror was for sale or a freebie since it has been sitting in their yard since the Cold War (kidding! I think…I haven’t been alive that long to attest to its lawn life), but, obviously, I don’t want to get murdered.
Where am I going with this? Oh yeah. Our house is the classiest on the block. I am allowed to be sassy and judgmental of the “Texas Chainsaw massacre house” because our sweet children adorn our home in their own creative and stylish ways. Admittedly, I would prefer they left things clean and tidy, but how can I repress their décor skills?

Contemporary chic table top items, creatively called, "Truck pulling my boot and stuff."

Contemporary chic table top items, creatively titled, “Truck pulling my boot and stuff.”

Betcha won't see a Little Tikes hall barricade in West Elm!

Betcha won’t see a Little Tikes hall barricade in West Elm!

In lieu of turndown service, our babies provide us with a nightly obstacle course in order earn our slumber.

In lieu of turndown service, our babies provide us with a nightly obstacle course in order to earn our slumber.

Trying to make up for earlier messes.  It's about time he starts contributing around here...

Trying to make up for earlier messes. It’s about time he starts contributing around here…

Three examples? I could probably do better, but…I’m sleep deprived and there’s this flaky spot on my elbow…

Outside of some obnoxious movie classics, I have very few quotes memorized. But one of my favorites would have to be Mark Twain’s: “Comparison is the death of joy.” I don’t foresee Samuel Clemens’ quip needlepointed on many hipster pillows, but this quote has resonated with me since my early morning pity party of late.

I have come to appreciate that solitude and silence are overrated, and that the appearance of my home’s interior these days is about as important as a lawn ornament mirror (not important, to be clear). I don’t believe I have impressed anybody for quite a while, but every day when my kids wake me up by 6 am (thanks Daylight Savings!), I am utterly, incomparably in awe. The landscaping might need weeded, and the grass might need irrigated, but I have the prettiest garden on the block:
I mean, how many people get to hang out with a two year old capable of sarcasm and an 8-month-old lumberjack?

 

Baby lumberjack included.

 

A Brief Compilation of Things I Never Thought I Would Say…

Oh, hi there. Remember when I kept a riveting, timely, unique blog that was intellectually stimulating and incomparably entertaining? No? Me neither. Get in line.

I just had to reset the forgotten password on my WordPress account.   It was only then that I recalled my last two posts were in May and, before that, January. Based on my inconsistent updates, I’ll address the elephant over in that there corner and admit I am the worst blog writer ever. I know, I know. Luckily, I write this blog only for my own selfish reasons, to aid my prematurely failing memory of our childrens’ milestones and shenanigans, and to potentially humiliate and/or entertain our offspring in the future.

Someone teach me to read so I can fully appreciate my mom's over-sharing!

Someone teach me to read so I can fully appreciate my mom’s over-sharing!

With the elephant out of the way, I should entice you with the fact I have TONS of great material. By tons of material, I mean I am constantly thinking, “Oh, geez, I need to write this down!” every time one of our kids does something remotely cute or humorous. I succeed in actually recording these things just shy of 0.5% of the time. It is hardly novel to think one’s own children are the cutest and smartest and funniest and naughtiest of beings, so I welcome and understand any murmurings of “who cares,” by the unfortunate souls who are forced to absorb my unwelcome updates. By writing a blog, however, one is NOT forced to nod and smile at my obnoxious quantity of kid stories/photographs/woes, so if you’re still reading this garbage, prepare to be BLOWN AWAY! Or, more likely, minimally distracted for a few minutes…

One of many disappointments in myself as a young (in experience, not age) mother is that I have failed to stay away from the dreaded ‘mom talk.’ I swore I would never participate in such cliché, mundane, repetitive quips. Nope. I would not partake in the parental mantras, “when I was a kid…” or “life’s not fair,” or “because I said so,” to name a few.

Our sweet babies are far from the approaching thunderstorm that is adolescence and puberty, so these phrases might just spew from my vocal cords like a repressed volcano when the time arrives, BUT so far I have avoided these favorite catch-phrases of parenthood. However, with our chatty and engaging toddler, who is developing a greater sense of independence (a burden/blessing to parents of toddlers everywhere) whilst learning the ways of the world around her, I have said so, SO many things I could never have predicted to avoid. Often, I don’t even notice or realize what I am saying. Not until minutes or hours later do I recall a particular episode and wonder if a particular conversation REALLY took place. Did I REALLY just say that? Did we REALLY just have a lengthy discussion about the volume and attitude of “Seal,” her beloved stuffed animal/person/best friend that accompanies her everywhere and seems to have an innately annoying voice and vocabulary?

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Although physically restrained, Seal’s personality can never be repressed…

A few examples of Hazel bringing out the best in me:

“If you ask the same question too many times, Mommy’s ears stop working.”

“No, I don’t think your turds get scared before you flush them.”

“I know you weren’t tickling him with your feet. Stop trying to kick your brother.”

“Please don’t eat with ‘sock hands’. That’s gross. Put your socks back on your feet and use your utensils.”

“Well, when you put it that way, I suppose robots might need to go to the grocery store.”

“Yes, you can see Olaver’s poopy diaper. Just don’t touch it.”

“Please be a quieter dinosaur.”

“Yes, that does stink and yes, we know you farted.”

“I’m sorry you are ‘so frustrated,’ but I can’t make the bath fill any faster.”

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“I just….need…more waterrrrr!”

Often times I also find myself using the contractions, “let’s.” For example: “Let’s not do that.” It’s been a while since I took an English class, but if memory serves me correctly, “let’s” is equivalent to “let us” which would imply WE are doing things we shouldn’t be doing. Ummm…no. Why must I drag myself into a situation? Am I trying to convey camaradarie? Emotional support? Am I being a giant softie and leveling a potentially upsetting situation by suggesting that I, too, am doing something wrong or equivalent to her behavior? Dumb, dumb, dumb. To highlight my poor choice of wording:

“Let’s not pick our nose.” Wrong. I was not picking my nose.

“Let’s put our pants on.” Correction: YOU put pants on. I wear pants every time I leave the house. And contrary to your beliefs, your butt gets plenty of fresh air.

“Let’s think about what happened.” Actually, I don’t need to think hard. You do.  At least pretend you’re thinking about it so I’ll be duped into assuming it will never happen again. I know what took place because I have two functioning eyeballs and a hint of common sense.

As always, my list could go on and on and on, but I’ll share one more for the road and consider it a meager success that I managed to throw together one blog post over the past four months:

“Yes! You look JUST like a lighthouse!”

You're welcome, sea captains.

You’re welcome, sea captains.

Have a good one.

Queen of the Ball Droppers

I’ve been dropping the ball a lot these days. Dropping the ball at keeping in touch with friends and loved ones. Failing to keep our abode in a cleanly state. Failing to make myself presentable. Failing to keep my blog up to date for my beloved 3 or 4 readers (Hi Mom!).
Nobody likes a ball dropper. And nobody likes an excuse maker. BUT! Rest assured I have a really, REALLY good reason because………wait for it……….

I made one of these:

TA DA!!

TA DA!!

It’s a baby!

Twelve weeks ago (what???) I gave birth to the most sweet and beautiful little boy that ever did get birthed. And you KNOW that’s a fact because mothers are always objective and unbiased when talking about their offspring. He is handsome and smiley and cuddly and changing so fast I want to scream at him, “Slow down!” but it’s not nice to scream at babies, so…I don’t.
In true motherly fashion I am compelled to share the baby stats of which people always seem to inquire. Asking a newborn’s stats, I feel, is the type of question people throw out there but generally don’t ACTUALLY care about the response. People just feel like they should ask a new baby’s size because it’s right up there with “How are you?” or “How’s the weather?” in general social etiquette. I believe this because while people often ask about the details, they tend to get a distracted and uninterested look when I respond. And that’s okay, really, because what’s so exciting about a baby’s height and weight? Unless you gave birth to a record-breaking ginormo rhino baby or the baby popped out ready to walk-on for the Pistons (and if any of these ever happen to you…I’m sorry), it’s truly not THAT exciting to anyone but the parents and grandparents. Right? And maybe the baby – if he or she could speak – wouldn’t want everyone to know how much they weigh. They spend 9-10 months cooped up in a quiet, warm, soothing place and then they come out and everyone tosses them around and gets in their face and THEN they have the nerve to ask baby mommas and daddys, “Ooooh, how big was he/she?” I mean, if someone asks me what I weigh, I would immediately assume they are rude and while I might answer them in polite fashion, my mind would be spinning with questions. “Why do they need to know? Do they work at the circus?” “Do they think I am bigger than I should be?” “Do they think I’m a boxer?”

"Step right up, and pay me to offend you!"

“Step right up, and pay me to offend you!”

Come back, Erin.
Okay, so here are the details:

Olaver Nathan 7 pounds 3 ounces 19 1/2 inches 10 tons of cute

Olaver Nathan
7 pounds 3 ounces
19 1/2 inches
10 tons of cute

I’ll spare you the entire birth story (for today, at least), but he did follow in his sister’s footsteps and made his grand entrance with interesting and somewhat comical timing. Fortunately, despite all my pregnancy/prenatal complications and relentless worrying, Olaver cooked until a wonderful, healthy 39 weeks. The C-section was scheduled for February 14th and we gratefully laughed that after all the weeks of fear and planning for worst-case scenarios, he decided to stay put until the final days of pregnancy. On the night of February 13th, we sent Hazel off to stay with family for the duration of my hospitalization and decided to enjoy one last dinner date sans babes and hoped for a good night’s rest before our expected arrival time at the hospital for 5:30 the next morning.
The car ride to dinner was excrutiating as every bump, vibration, and turn created stronger, more painful contractions. This was nothing new as I had been having contractions for months, thanks to my irritable uterus. Given my extended bed rest and consequent sabbatical from civilization, I hadn’t been on many car rides for weeks and assumed it was par for the course I had been enduring. At dinner, the contractions picked up and it was all I could do to sit still. Nathan kept glancing at me asking if I was okay and I contended that Yes. I was fine. I was just hungry.
“Maybe you should time your contractions.”
“I have been.”
“Oh, well, how often are you having them?”
“Every minute and a half.”
A moment of silence passed between us and he suggested that maybe I shouldn’t eat “Just in case.” I scoffed at him. My c-section was 12 hours a way and so it was, of course, impossible I was going into true labor NOW after ALL of this and I was probably just having more contractions because I was STARVING and he should just eat his meal.
He responded that, of course, he would finish his meal regardless. We were only 3 minutes from the hospital, after all.
Dinner continued in this fashion – Nathan steadily eating his meal, eyeing me every few minutes and pretending to ignore the near-writhing pain that I was undergoing at that point and miserably attempting to hide. He questioned silently – because he treasured his life – whether it was appropriate I was scarfing down my meal at an impressive speed and to completion.
Despite my hopeful hypothesis, the contractions did not slow down once my stomach was full.
“How often are your contractions now?”
“Um, every minute.”
“We’re going to the hospital.”
“No…we’re not. Let me just lay in the car and rest.”
He continued to insist on going to the birth center and I continued to refuse because I didn’t want to appear ridiculous or dramatic and show up hours before planned surgery in false labor.
But alas, I eventually caved. I strolled (waddled…limped) my preggo self into Labor & Delivery when it became difficult to form sentences, and as you can probably deduce from this unpredictable, plot-twist, drama-filled novella, I was, indeed in labor. Much to the anesthetist’s dismay (as anyone in the health care field can appreciate), they operated on me despite being chock full of food, and our amazing, healthy, fully-cooked and incredibly vocal baby boy made his debut.

Six days and many complications later, I was finally released to the wolves – or home, at least – and we became a family of four.

IMG_1697 IMG_1699

We have joyfully, exhaustingly, been adjusting to the new dynamic of having two babies. I have slowly, and (mostly) patiently continued my long and gradually improving course to health. I am physically, emotionally and strategically adapting to trying to maintain a home, keep two adorably high-maintenace babies alive and content while returning to work and pretending I have my shtuff together.

And I’ve been dropping the ball allll along the way.

Recent photo of baby boy.  Only had 874 more to choose from.

Recent photo of baby boy. Only had 874 more to choose from.

Tales of ball-droppery and our lively adventures to come…

 

The Muumuu Threshold

There were several moments yesterday when I was convinced I was hearing things.  Reminiscent of ‘Horton Hears a Who,’ I swore I heard a faint cry of distress. Carefully sitting still, closing my eyes, and holding my breath, I was able to discern the mysterious sound.  Turns out, if you are just quiet enough, you’ll hear my pants whimpering, “Uncleeeeee!!”

There comes a point in every pregnancy – errr, at least in mine – I have begrudgingly designated the Muumuu threshold.  This dreaded juncture marks a moment in which even the coziest of elasticized, forgiving maternity clothing begins to feel constrictive, uncomfortable and even indecent.  The burgeoning belly I don grows at an unprecedented, uncontrollable and remarkable rate.   It is at this time when a muumuu – the glamorous, loose-fitting, underappreciated gown – would be held in the highest esteem.  Although I have made the mistake of not purchasing this enviable garment for myself not once, but TWICE, I find myself daydreaming of a Polynesian-themed drapery that wouldn’t cling to all the wrong places of my pregnant physique.

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Now THIS is a party I wouldn’t wanna miss!!

Because there is, thankfully, only a short time left until baby boy’s arrival, I refuse to purchase any larger maternity wear.  The thought has crossed my mind of simply cutting holes in XL garbage bags or seeking out a gently used circus tent to dress me for the remaining days of this pregnancy.  While the countdown is shortening, it is still plenty of time during which I am expected to display some reasonable garb.  Given the extremely cold weather and conventional societal standards, it would be in my – and everybody’s – best interest to stay clothed, regardless of the selected attire.

My husband graciously offered, and has likely since regretted the gesture, to share his clothing.  I fear the watermelon that overtaketh my waist has stretched out his already limited wardrobe.  Even now, his extra-long t-shirts that hang loosely on his much taller frame seemingly cut off the circulation at my midriff.  The normally ginormous tee seems to have turned into a preteen halter-top overnight.  Despite the generous  “extra long” description, I recently noticed a draft on my underbelly anytime I lift my arms above…well…my sides.

Despite the name, clothing is actually the least of my concerns upon reaching the Muumuu threshold.  After all, I hardly leave the house these days, and even if I did, I wouldn’t feel obligated to dazzle the masses while pumping gas or running last-minute, pre-baby, mostly mundane errands. The name provides more of a general term for the challenges that us preggos endure at the 9 month-ish mark of being a human incubator (or maybe it’s just me, but just nod and agree empathetically because I’m huge and hormonal and I will eat all your food if you refute my complaints…ok?).   Here are a few obstacles that accompany the grand finale of pregnancy:

*The inability to touch your toes.

Or see them, for that matter.

At the end of my pregnancy with Hazel, I asked Nathan to paint my toenails for me.  He refused.  He said or implied something along the lines of, “What’s the point?”  I (sort of) jokingly threatened annulment, because that’s how any loving, sensible wife would appropriately reply.  But I thought about it further and decided to let his blasé attitude toward my piggies go (mostly) unscathed.  After all, I am pregnant and delivering both babies in the middle of winter.  There are no flip-flops adorning these Flintstone feet.  With a belly that deserves its own zip code, even if I were wearing sandals, who would defer their eyes from my shapely figure and notice my feet?  They are covered 90% of the time with wool socks and winter boots anyway, and so, what IS the point of taking the effort to throw on some unnecessary color?  Well, I’ll tell you what the point is.  The point is I want something going for me in this charade.  I mean…when my pasty, puffy, blotchy, preggo self is splayed across a surgical table – naked – in front of several health professionals as they are prepping me for my c-section, I want them to notice my toes and think to themselves maybe I don’t resemble livestock, and have it together after all!

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Like “Nessie” or a yeti, I’m beginning to question the existence of these things.

*Cannot fit comfortably at the dining room table.

OR within a car seat belt.  OR inside a telephone booth.  OR beneath a roller coaster lap band. (I’ll let you figure out which ones I have actually tried)

The belly isn’t all inconvenience, of course.  Serving as a built-in shelf is pretty awesome.  My growing baby boy creates an excellent, well-positioned ledge upon which to catch meal crumbs, rest tired hands, or even place my laptop.  I should point out Baby boy is not a fan of this.  The placing of any object on or against my belly inevitably leads to a charade of kicks and flip-flops that would make Chuck Norris weep.  But it’s worth the internal battle because I don’t have to roll over to grab the remote when it’s already resting perfectly, horizontally, across my gut.

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Gosh. I was JUST looking for the perfect spot to display these baby shoes. Problem solved!

At the Muumuu threshold, however, my abdomen no longer qualifies as a “shelf” or even a “belly.”  At this time it is more of a mountainous barrier to normal human movement.  It resembles more of a torpedo than a basketball.  Therefore, it’s all my T-rex arms can do to reach my protruding belly button, let alone use my atypical shape to any advantage.

*Picking up objects.

I suppose this is pretty much identical to #1 as both entail seeing and reaching beneath one’s own waist.  However, it seems necessary objects are dropped, broken and lost 340% more frequently when it is physically impossible for me to deal with the consequences.  I am frustratingly clumsy when NOT creating a human life, but the comedy karma gods enhance my awkwardness to a record level while pregnant.   Picking up objects while knocked up feels as though it requires the balance, coordination and agility of a contortionist cat.  Bending over is the primary form of exercise I get these days – which is regular and often, given my uncoordinated state – but every time I do so I get short of breath, see spots and inevitably become even MORE unbalanced upon returning to an upright position.  Nothing makes you feel more like a superhero than asking your 2 year old to pick up the mail you dropped on the floor for the third time in 5 minutes.

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Gift one of these to every pregnant person you know that you care about. DO IT.

Am I whining? Of course I am.  And if you want to endure more torture insight into how awesome I am at pregnancy (and complaining of its woes), check out my favored pregnancy post here or this gem – if you haven’t already.  But, as always, I am oh so grateful, fortunate and relieved to have made it this far in the pregnancy and ecstatic knowing we will get to meet our adorable bundle of joy within just a few short weeks.

And now – inspired by my own post – I am off to take my life in my own hands and will attempt to make my hooves presentable.  If I botch the job and anybody asks, I let my toddler paint my toes.  I’m fun and spontaneous like that!

Cabin Fever

There have been many, many instances in my life when I have craved complete and utter laziness.  While busy working, studying or partaking in domestic responsibilities, I have often caught myself daydreaming of 24 hours in which I never change out of my pajamas.  No work, no responsibilities, no human interaction. Too many times to count, I have expressed my desire of a day not leaving bed, watching crappy daytime television programming or infomercials, reading trashy books, sitting at a table doing nothing but crossword puzzles and donning my favorite sweatpants.  Life gets busy and we get tired and I think it’s acceptable to pine for a whole lotta nothing from time to time.  But now…I take it back. I take it ALLLLLL back.

I’m sure it’s hardly original to write about “cabin fever” at this time. After all, it is mid-January…in Michigan…amidst a winter for the record books.  Just last week we all had the pleasure of enjoying a Snowmageddon/Polar Vortex/ Don’t-go-outside-unless-you-want-your-buttcheeks-to-freeze-together stretch that had everyone treating bona fide winter weather like the zombie apocalypse.  I know I am far from alone in my longing for sunshine, fresh air and any activity that doesn’t have to take place indoors.  Given my additional burden of bed rest, however, I feel I am a little more justified in my rant.  Several days of being “snowed in” with the masses made bed rest SLIGHTLY easier knowing that I was not alone in my inability to leave the house (misery loves company!), but now that the weather is back to its normal, almost-tolerable level of gloom, I find myself aching to get out of this mandated indolence.

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Keep it together…you’ve got this…I’m totally keeping it together…

Bed rest has been pretty wretched.  It could be much worse, of course.  For one, it’s working.  The fact baby boy hasn’t fallen out yet is the most important feat.  Furthermore, I am incredibly blessed to have had the support and patience of Nathan.  We are fortunate beyond words to have family relatively close by to care for Hazel while I am not allowed to stand or bend or lift or chase her down the hall.  Hazel quickly grew accustomed to, “No, honey, I can’t pick you up,” and will (most of the time) sweetly bring a book or toy or puzzle to me so we can read or play or snuggle upon the confines of whatever bed or couch I am currently occupying.  The time has gone slower than I would like, but we’re down to less than a week.  ONE WEEK.  Several more days of utter worthlessness and then I can finally, gratefully, return to as much of a normal life as a 9-month pregnant, sleep-deprived, equilibrium-challenged and weakened by slothlessness (I think I just made that word up…feel free to borrow it) woman is capable of having.  That is, until whenever baby boy makes his appearance via C-section and then I’ll be back to some similar dreaded restrictions, but at least we’ll have a cute new addition to the family outside my pelvis to remind us why it was all worthwhile.

I was offered many kind and creative suggests for how to fill my time while on bed rest.  One of my greatest frustrations is when I try to be optimistic and think, “Ooh I can get to that one thing I haven’t had the time to do for years,” but realize shortly after it requires standing or walking or lifting or general movement and therefore will remain on my “to do” list for another decade. Several people recommended knitting or crocheting. I loved the idea.  This should keep my hands busy, fill time, and still be able to lay down or sit to my uterus’ content.  Nathan agreed to get me the supplies and I would turn to YouTube or a creative individual to teach me the basics.  But…here I am…sans yarn and no successful pot holders or scarves or baby blankets to show for it.  Seeing as how I am incapable of sewing a button back on my pants (but can suture human flesh…figure that one out), maybe it’s better I didn’t even attempt to get crafty.

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If I’d known I would be missing out on this opportunity, I would have DEMANDED a crochet hook.

Several friends and family members kindly suggested, “You could blog more!  You could write a book!”  This was true.  I would have ample time to spend quality hours with the MacBook and plenty of time for my brain to wander and get inspired.  But since I am otherwise a waste of space, I didn’t want to spend my time at home (bedridden or not) with Hazel staring at a computer screen instead of making an attempt to converse or play or snuggle or read or whatever else is possible from a primarily horizontal or sitting position.  I’m trying to make the most of this added bonus time with her – especially before the baby comes – and don’t want my face glued to a computer screen or social media.  I think she is young enough, fortunately, she won’t remember this period of her life, but if she does I don’t want her to think back on “remember when Mom was super lazy and wouldn’t play with me for weeks and then all she did was sit around looking at her phone and laptop?”  So I have drastically limited my technology to when she is in bed and hence the few blog posts when I would otherwise have all the time in the world to write my gibberish.

Given my restrictions, housebound status and depressingly limited contact with the outside world, we have had to get a bit creative to maintain sanity.  Luckily, Hazel is free entertainment, incredibly imaginative and – most of the time – hilarious.  Thanks to these fancy cellular phone camera contraptions, I am still able to take obnoxious quantities of digital pics to document our daily activities.  I hope nobody has to be put on bed rest, with a toddler, in winter, but if you DO, here are some perfectly acceptable and amusing ways to fill the hours:

Make a paper chain to count down the days of imprisonment bed rest:

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Super productive use of time and makes for a great “tail” to run around the house with.

Put together a train track:

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A derailment is inevitable.

Dress up like a “princess”:

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I assume real-life princesses can afford shoes made with materials other than plastic.

Dress up like a crazy person:

Indiana Jones meets Mad Max meets Rainbow Bright.

Indiana Jones meets Mad Max meets Rainbow Bright.

Adorn yourself with stickers (see “crazy person” above):

Accessorizing on a budget.

Accessorizing on a budget.

Build a snowman with daddy (I watched from the window in a non-creepy way):

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It finally got above -88 degrees so they were able to enjoy the snow and didn’t even lose a limb to frostbite….bonus!

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Create your own interpretation of what a “train” should be:

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Not sure how functional it is, but at least she looks comfortable?

Completely give up on your afternoon naps, but be sure to put all 46 stuffed animals to bed while telling them to “lay down, closer your eyes, and GO TO SLEEP!”:

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Miss Bossypants needs to heed her own advice.

SO…if you’re wondering what I’ve been up to the past several weeks, you can admire from the preceding pictures JUST how much I have accomplished.  Be inspired.  To everyone who generously and encouragingly says, “Oh, but hasn’t it gone by fast?!” No.  No it hasn’t.  But we are on the home stretch and I’ve had some fun, recumbent times with the kiddo and my pregnancy has been going more smoothly and lasted longer than we feared weeks ago.  And in the upcoming week, when my independence is restored, look out world!!  I might just waddle myself into some amazing and productive adventures. images-4 Or….not.

My Irritable Uterus

Whoa, whoa, whoa…I can hear the stampedes now!  A post about a finicky female organ?  OH MY GOSH…I CAN’T READ IT FAST ENOUGH!!  I mean, with all the demand for more reading material of women complaining about their lady woes, I am sure a book deal is inevitable.  How will I handle the fame? The money?

Why am I writing about my girl parts?  Well, for one, I’ve had several people ask why I am so lame at being knocked up.  For those martyrs who are interested in good ol’ pregnancy and delivery stories, then I hope to keep your attention.  Also, I know for a lot of women, myself included, it helps to read about other less-than-perfect pregnancies to know that I am not alone in this struggle, not a complete physical freak, and to share a kinship of preggo misery that makes the challenges perhaps a bit easier.   If, on the other hand, you’re wondering, ‘why the flip is this girl talking about her uterus?’ then get in line and stop reading right now.  If you’re not interested in my gestational challenges, I completely understand.  Go read about something more captivating…like…colonoscopies.

Because I should have earned an honorary spot in Whiners Anonymous by now, I would like to point out that my complaints are for therapeutic and entertaining value and not because I am a complete pessimist and Debbie downer.   As I have hopefully highlighted in other posts, I am well aware – every day – just how fortunate I am.  Despite the pregnancy woes of which I will write, I am more than grateful to be pregnant.  I am eternally grateful Nathan and I were able to conceive without difficulty or complication.  I am grateful I survived pregnancy #1, knowing how much more serious my conditions could have been.  I am grateful for a beautiful, healthy daughter and for the growing baby boy hanging out in my belly right now who, by all evidence up to this point, seems perfectly healthy.  I don’t like to think about such things, but before anyone gets offended, I know how blessed we are and I know I could have it much worse in the past, present and future.   So if I ever seem ungrateful or insensitive, please, please forgive me and know – despite whatever paltry words spill out on this blog or out of my mouth – I am not.

Now, where were we?

I’ll tell Hazel’s story since she was the first to wreak havoc on my body (but what baby doesn’t?).   As I have mentioned before, I am not a pretty pregnant woman.   I had morning sickness, fatigue and horrendous pregnancy acne with Hazel, but otherwise everything seemed to be going well.  I took my vitamins, I ate all the right foods and eliminated the bad ones, I rested when I could, I cut back on my running and did everything the lame-o pregnancy books told me to do.  I did feel quite “crampy” throughout the pregnancy, but as the doctor and my own medical knowledge reassured me, it was nothing to worry about if I wasn’t spotting or bleeding or if the cramps didn’t become extremely painful.  Everything was stretching, after all.  Ligaments stretch, organs move, and a human takes your innards hostage, so it’s not surprising that we get a pain or cramp from time to time, no?  I dealt with the “cramping” for weeks and didn’t think much of it.  I kept working, kept exercising and when things became difficult, didn’t push it and cut back as my body and schedule allowed.  I occasionally noticed the cramping would be worse than at other times – when taking the dogs for a walk, for example, sometimes the cramps were so strong I could hardly stand up straight by the time we were home.  But they were never painful, and I didn’t have any other warning signs, so I told myself to suck it up and reminded myself that pregnancy wasn’t meant to be comfortable and I should remember I’m creating a human life, not spending 40 weeks at the spa.

Things changed right around the 32 week mark.  Nathan was driving us to my favorite Mexican restaurant a half hour or so away – a weekly gathering for this happy preggo – and the drive was…uncomfortable. The “cramps” always seemed to get worse on car rides, but clearly this one was worse than other trips as Nathan kept glancing at me asking, “Are you okay?”  Without realizing it, I was shifting, fidgeting, unable to sit comfortably as the cramps were stronger than normal and I had pain across my lower back.  “Yeah, I think I just have to pee really bad or something.”  But by the time we arrived at the restaurant, I didn’t feel like myself.

“Maybe you should call someone.”

“No, I don’t want to seem like a whiner. Or an idiot.”

But I did feel something was awry.  After we sat in the parking lot, both staring longingly at the colorful banners and neon lights of our Mexican oasis, Nathan finally convinced me to at least talk to the doctor on call.  She asked me the routine questions, “Are you spotting? Are you bleeding?  Are you leaking fluid?”  Blah blah blah.  Already knowing what she was going to say, however, she recommended I come into the OB unit to get checked out, “just to be safe.”  I relayed the advice to Nathan and after a short discussion consisting of, ‘we should at least try enchiladas first…maybe it will help!,’ we decided it would be smart to forego our delicious meal and get checked out sooner than later.

Upon arriving in the OB unit I felt awkward and embarrassed.  The staff was ever friendly and professional as they got my information, checked my vitals and placed me in an observation room.   Yet I imagined them rolling their eyes and snickering outside the door, “This girl is complaining about “cramps”…what a sissy!  Doesn’t she know she’s pregnant?  I mean, just wait until she’s in labor…let’s grab straws so I don’t’ get stuck with this dummy! “  As soon as we arrived, I wanted to leave.

As the friendly nurse hooked my vast belly up to monitors, she smiled empathetically and said, “Let’s just see what’s going on before we worry too much, okay?”  Now, as part of my PA education, we are required to complete a 4 week OB/GYN rotation. I loved it, I learned a lot, and have many fond memories.  But it had been years since I had so much as set foot in an OB unit and would hardly consider myself the most knowledgeable of obstetrics.  When the nurse hooked me up to the tocometer (the belly belt that measures contractions), however, I immediately recognized the tall, regular spikes, turned to Nathan and said something along the lines of, “Oh shit.”

Not only were these “cramps” legitimate contractions, but they were occurring ever 1 ½ – 2 minutes.   Nurse friendly played it cool, smiled and said, “Let’s start an IV and I’m going to make a phone call.”  Here’s where the real poking and prodding commenced.  Labs, cervical checks (or as I like to call them, ‘really super fun invasion of nether region’), IV fluids, IV meds, position changes and a handful of pills later, the contractions were unchanged. No better, no worse, and still every 2-ish minutes.  Fortunately, as the doctor soon relayed to me, I wasn’t progressing.  In other words, my uterus was going bananas, but my cervix wasn’t thinning or dilating, so I wasn’t in true labor.  I was sent home on restrictions, medications and bequeathed the enviable diagnosis: “Irritable Uterus.”

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Don’t…make…me….angryyyy!!!

I couldn’t help but snicker at the name. I pictured an ill-tempered, smooth muscle organ with a frowny face and the demeanor of a grumpy old man.  “Arggh…I’m yer uterus.  This weather sucks. (contraction) What’s this country coming to? (contraction)  Can you believe the punk kids these days?” (contraction)

But alas, this was the title for my ongoing discomfort.  Somewhere between Braxton Hicks and full-blown ohmygoshhurryupandgettothehospital true labor, I continued to contract every two minutes for the remainder of my pregnancy.  No joke.  The irritable uterus title, as ridiculous as it sounded, was incredibly accurate.  Virtually everything caused my contractions to worsen.  Bumpy roads? Ouch.  Physically tired?  Contraction.  Emotionally exhausted? Stressed?  Scary movie?  Have to pee?  Ate too much?  Didn’t eat enough?  Contraction, contraction.

Fortunately, despite my cantankerous womb, I made it to 37 ½ weeks with our baby girl.  I then faced a slew of other challenges including pre-eclampsia, an urgent C-section (after 3 hours of pushing), and a rare and life-threatening complication of pre-eclampsia called HELLP syndrome which scared the bajeezus out of Nathan and nearly led to Hazel being an only child.  (Looking for happy stories? TMI? I’m your gal!) But, all complications aside, Hazel came out perfect and healthy and beautiful and has been a life-changing sleep deprivation machine blessing for which we are thankful every day.

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Worth every moment of prenatal misery. Right, Mom? Mom?

Because the telling of Hazel’s pregnancy saga has quickly turned into a marathon, I’ll cut to the chase and say my uterus has been just as irritable with baby #2.  After seeing 2 obstetricians and an additional high-risk specialist over an hour away, I was reassured that, although virtually impossible to prevent, I am low risk to develop HELLP again (fingers crossed!) and that IU (I’m using fancy acronyms now…check it out!) is a benign condition that you also can’t prevent and can’t do a whole lot for other than accept that it makes my pregnancy a little more difficult than the average mama bear.   With baby boy it started much earlier.  I remember the “cramps” starting in the middle of the second trimester.  I tried to avoid the things that made the contractions worse, but eventually it progressed to the point where breathing and blinking seemed to unsettle my uterus.  Like Hazel, I’ve done everything in my power to stay healthy and do as I’m told, but as is the case with parenthood and life and our general well-being, some things are just completely out of our control.

Unlike Hazel, however, my IU in this pregnancy has turned for the worse.  A few weeks ago at a routine OB check, I vented that my contractions seemed much stronger this time around.  As a precaution, the doc recommended an ultrasound to ensure the contractions weren’t causing any problems.  Turns out, these contractions are wreaking more havoc than the ones I had with Hazel and, unfortunately, my cervix was found to be significantly thinned.  In other words, the contractions aren’t as benign as they previously were and are advancing things along too fast and too early.  To (hopefully) prevent preterm labor and keep baby boy from falling out of me, it was recommended I take my meds routinely (I was only taking them on an “as needed” basis before) and go on full bed rest.  And here I lay, 2 weeks into bed rest with 3+ weeks to go until I can rejoin the world of the vertical.  I fear by the time I get the green light to return to mobility, I’ll have developed muscle atrophy, bed sores, lost my sanity and gained 50 pounds, but I remind myself how important it is to keep baby boy cooking and that before we know it he will be here and this will be a terrifying funny story to share with the kids.  Or guilt them into obedience.

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Before bed rest…

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…after bed rest.

I know, I know…the black dress in the first pic was a little overkill to go to Chick-Fil-A, but sometimes you just have to make yourself feel pretty, ya know?

So there you have it.  Apologies for the lengthy tale.  It seems I am incapable of keeping things short…with the exception of my memory.  I’ve spared some ugly details, and hopefully I won’t have any more ugly details to share for the remainder of this pregnancy.  Irritable uterus and complications aside, I have more blessings than I can count and than I deserve, and I’m going to try and maintain a Pollyanna attitude (or as close as I can get to it) until however many more weeks we have until baby boy makes his grand -but hopefully less dramatic- entrance.

In the meantime, I’ll be kickin’ it in bed.  Or on the couch.  Hide your jealousy!

Christmastime Revelations

Hmmm.  I realize this title implies something much more virtuous and groundbreaking than what I have to offer.  If you are expecting to encounter a philosophical or educational piece, then turn your eyeballs elsewhere.  If you want to read ramblings about the superficial insight this atypical holiday season provided my measly brain, then stay tuned my beloved victims!

I have expressed before that we’re not “big” on holidays.  We prepare for Halloween with general apathy.  Although we very much like each other, neither Nathan nor I have ever cared much about the “hallmark holidays” of Valentine’s or the buy-your-loved-one-something-or-else “Sweetest Day.”  Fourth of July is fun because it’s ALMOST guaranteed warmth and barbecuing in good ol’ Michigan.  And Thanksgiving is nice because you (usually) get a couple of days off work, spend time with family and it’s focused around simultaneous gratitude and gluttony, which is A-OK in my book.

But Christmas is another story.  Because we both. LOVE. CHRISTMAS.  The indifference and cynicism with which we view most holidays evaporates and we turn into giddy, fidgety, overzealous Christmas dorks as soon as we drive home from our Thanksgiving fulfillments.  For 11 months of the year I can’t wait to put Bing Crosby to shame (through volume or talent is up to your bleeding ears to decide).  For 340-ish days, we eagerly await Christmas parades, Christmas parties, Christmas services and specials.  Although we stick to humble white lights and wreaths (so far), we both dream of making Clark Griswold’s house look half-assed.  We love the cooking and baking, the gift-giving and gatherings, the traditions and movies and books and on and on and on.  The restraint we possess in waiting until “Black Friday” (a shopping extravaganza which we do not partake in….because we are not crazy that ambitious) to celebrate is admirable, at the least, if you knew how much waiting for Christmas makes us felt like squirmy, hungry children in line at the dessert table for most of the year.

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Psshhht. Amateurs.

The anticipation this year was no different.  In fact, it was even greater knowing we had a fun and energetic two year old to add more whimsy to our most favorite of calendar days.  However, the last couple weeks forced some unexpected turns for our family.  Pregnancy complications (I’ll post more on that fun another day) and illnesses thwarted our usual Christmas plans.  Thanks to my sudden decay in immunity and gestational well-being, our Christmas-palooza was seemingly ruined.  We couldn’t travel to our usual family gatherings.  We couldn’t head to the mall or local stores to finish Christmas shopping.  I couldn’t concoct the meals and coveted baked goods during one of the few times of year it is socially acceptable to create and consume masses of sugary, buttery-laden goodness without guilt or judgment.  The remainder of the Christmas decorations would stay in their sad little tubs in the basement storage and our nighttime winter walks through the impressively decorated downtown so Hazel could admire the lights and music would have to be pushed aside.

We spent this entire Christmas at home.  No family gatherings, no travel.  I mostly enjoyed Christmas from a horizontal position consuming Tylenol and watching way too many Christmas movies to keep our busy toddler appeased.  Our usual hectic, but blissful hub-bub was dismantled.  For the first time in my life, I had less than 4 (and have had as many as 8) family Christmas gatherings to attend.  This year we have had but one Christmas – at home.  Nathan, Hazel, our unborn baby, the dogs and I stayed home.  We didn’t leave the house.  Most of us didn’t even leave our pajamas (I left the dogs out on this one because they don’t wear clothes….and the baby is naked, so….).

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9 am or 4 pm?? YOU’LL NEVER KNOW.

And despite our quiet, germ-laden, bedrest-enforced holiday, it was absolutely wonderful.  No rushing to leave the house, no pressure to look presentable.  Home-cooked meals by my husband and taking our time watching our sweet girl open every gift with an excitement and enthusiasm that can’t be reproduced was more than enough to make up for a round of Tamiflu and a finicky womb.  Being required to partake in a quiet holiday at home slowed things down so that I was able to witness some of the wonderful things in life we otherwise might not have the time or ability to appreciate.  In not being able to do much of, well, anything, I was fortunate to learn a few things this year.  Because we will most likely, hopefully, be back to our routine next year – with another baby in tow – I want to remind myself of the following:

#1: We fret about stupid stuff.

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I made an assortment of 8 different homemade cookies, but I was supposed to include Russian Tea Cakes?? ARGGHH!??! Son of a %&*$^#! Mother #*&@#*&!

I am not type A. Like….at all. I am not organized, I am generally laid back – probably to a fault – and despite the best of intentions, have a miraculous ability to not complete projects.  And yet as one of the most Christmas-adoring among us, I still find it can become quite stressful.  Worrying the house isn’t clean enough for company.  Worried about what gifts to get for family.  Worrying about being rushed, not getting to spend enough time at gathering A because you still have to make it to gathering B.  Reality is, none of it stinking matters.  Even if you drop the ball and buy Uncle Lester something he didn’t really want (truth: I don’t have an Uncle Lester, and if you do I’m sorry because he sounds creepy) or feel you can’t spend enough on cousin Snobbypants because she already has everything (naming your kid “Snobbypants” probably doesn’t set a great precedent), it doesn’t matter.  Even if you put hours into making your abode a pristine palace and your two year old and stupid dogs ruin all of your sweat-inducing efforts in less time than it takes you to say, “For the love of God please stop feeding the dog crayons,” and “why did you dump out that box of Teddy Grahams in the middle of the living room?”, it doesn’t matter.  In even more mushy fashion than I can adequately illustrate, this year has taught us the only things that matter are health and safety and family and happiness.  And because our families are graciously patient in postponing our traditions and have agreed to come to my mostly bedridden side in the upcoming days, I know they will STILL partake in the burden blessing of receiving our crappy gifts in the presently disordered home that would give Martha Stewart convulsions.   And that’s okay.  Suck it, Martha.

#2: Amazon is the bomb-diggity.

Let me defend myself for a minute here.  I put a great deal of effort into shopping local.  Truly.  In fact I abhor and strive to avoid Walmart and K-mart and any other “-mart” that drives out mom ‘n pops and seem to enjoy paying their employees in used tissue paper scraps and canned food drives (and I’m stepping off my soap box…now).  I enjoy frequenting the local stores, and when necessary even partake in the crazed crowds, hustle-n-bustle of shopping malls and department stores.  (Confession: I have a strong relationship with Target.  Because…I’m human.)  I love the decorations and the chaos and especially the people-watching.  Because people are funny and entertaining and crazy.  But we didn’t have time for much of that this year.  Our usual last minute frantic but confusingly enjoyable shopping endeavors were replaced with, ‘what can I find online and get shipped here in time for Christmas?’  I turned to my good ol’ amazon Prime account with a slight sense of guilt and ineptitude, but this quickly turned into…success!  Free 2 day shipping?  Virtually everything I want and need and cheaper than in the stores?  YES!  I wear my hypocrisy badge with pride and fulfillment!  This is the future!  I’ve turned to the dark side, and if I could get fresh produce by shopping online….I would.

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I need eggs….STAT!

#3: My husband can cook.

It seems Nathan has been deceiving me for 8 ½ years.  I am grateful I don’t have a 1950’s-esque chauvinistic spouse who would stink-eye me and yell, “That’s woman’s work!” if I asked him to transfer the laundry.  I am fortunate that – especially since Hazel came along – he helps with domestic responsibilities. But for the most part, he handles the outdoor demands and I handle those within the walls.  We’re both compromising, we both have our preferences, and I think we’re both okay with this system.  As a result, his cooking repertoire is limited.  Breakfast foods, hot dogs and take-out encompass most of his expertise.  Once, in our earlier days of marriage, he offered to grocery shop and cook dinner as a surprise.  He came home with the following: frozen corn dogs, shrimp cocktail and two bags of oreos.  Fortunately, I knew well before then I hadn’t married a Mario Batali.  But his well-intentioned “meal” solidified I should maintain my position as head meal planner and preparer.

When I found out I had to go on full bed rest, I was filled with many rational fears and frustrations.  Because food is always among my top priorities (babies, breathing, food…), I pictured weeks of reluctantly choking down fast food and cheap reheated corn dogs with a label that is two ingredients away from creating mutant ninja turtles.  But like a culinary superhero, Nathan has exceeded and slapped my pessimistic expectations right in the kisser.  He has created not only edible, but really, REALLY good meals for our family.  To keep the Christmas spirit alive, he talked of baking gingerbread houses and cookies, he volunteered to roast chestnuts and make Hazel and I breakfast.  And on Christmas night, in a state of grateful bewilderment, I consumed one of the best meals of my life: homemade prime rib, potatoes with carmelized onions with a side of greek yogurt/horseradish sauce. What the…who IS this guy?  It has been amazing.  And unfortunately for him, I now know his potential and will likely guilt him into shrimp cocktail-less meals for years to come.

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“Please don’t be one of those people who posts pictures of their food.” – Nathan
TOO LATE. Wa ha ha ha ha

Ultimately, I was reminded on this holiday – more than any other –  just how stinking good we have it.  I was forced into the very necessary reminder that, when it comes right down to it, even the prettiest and most celebrated of holiday traditions are a bunch of unnecessary fluff.   Sick or not, I was blessed with an amazing, relaxing Christmas at home – and that is more than I could ever really ask for or deserve.  I hope you all had a safe, healthy and frazzle-free Christmas.

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We will quickly learn if her new dollhouse is durable. And comfortable.

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“Me ‘n Elmo just hiding in our house!”

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And I look forward to getting back to the fluff next year.

Our Little Orator

Okay. I reaaalllly don’t want to be a braggart mom.  I strive not to boast or be a maternal egotist – even when I fear my head is visibly swelling every time someone compliments our offspring.  I bite my tongue and not-too-quickly put my phone pics away when I’m tempted to unabashedly share child updates to a most likely uninterested victim.  But…I have to point out that our 2 year old’s language skills are admirable.  Sorry.  She has an objectively impressive vocabulary for a tiny tot and while she occasionally requires a translator in her mother or father, her rapid improvement in communication and ability to parrot nearly everything she sees or hears often leaves us in awe.

However, the things that come out of Hazel’s mouth also occasionally terrify me.  Sometimes they’re eye opening; sometime they’re hilarious.  But if they are at all a reflection of Nathan and I, then we need to consider some serious improvements in our selves and our rhetoric.  Apparently cynicism, sass and stupidity are more easily conveyed than we feared.

Thanks to her developing language, we have also come to realize we are not nearly as good at deceiving her as we gave ourselves credit for.  Where she might have gone with our lies in the past, she now calls us out on our frequent attempts at manipulation.  While asking if she can watch Daniel Tiger’s Neighborhood, her favorite cartoon:

“Mommy, Danny T might be on TV?”

“Umm, nope, I think he’s sleeping right now.  He’s not on TV.”

(Leaves room, brings back and forces remote control into my hand):
“He’s not sleepy.  You have to check, Mommy.”

Crap.

While out to eat recently and choosing her meal, she asked for french fries.  Much to her dismay, I turned down her request.

“No, sorry, I don’t think they have fries here.  How about green beans?”

(long pause, points to table next to us)

“There’s some fries, Mommy!  See? They got fries here.  Yay!”

Son of a…

I don’t entirely blame her for these instances.  She’s unintentionally demonstrating she is already a better person than I and perhaps we should use real parenting techniques instead of dishonesty to teach her life lessons and allow her to comprehend why we make certain decisions.  But before you picture her with a halo and us with our horns, know she is already showing signs of inheriting (perhaps by default) our flaws.  I’m not proud.

Just tonight – out of nowhere – she felt inclined to tell Nathan he smelled.  After coming in from work, she scrunched her nose, dramatically pinched it and while shaking her head said,

“Peeee-yooooo, Daddy.”  He laughed, “That’s not very nice, Hazel.  I’m pretty sure I don’t stink.” And she immediately replied,

“You stink.  Thas just TERRIBLE.”

Even if he WAS malodorous (I don’t recall he was…), it is not polite to point out another’s lack of hygiene.  Or their pungent, and perhaps unavoidable, aroma.  But how do you explain this to a 2 year old?  She has taken to blaming her poopy diapers on the dogs, so maybe she is just really sensitive to or self-conscious of bodily functions?  Who knows…

She also seems to be going through the trend of picking a new word (generally a delightful term anyone would LOVE hearing from the mouth of a babe) and repeats it no less than 732,394 times.  Hazel’s favorite word of late is “crazy.”  I’d like to think I have a more sophisticated vocabulary, but I must incorporate this word into my everyday conversations, and more frequently than I intend.  Upon announcing she had finished her dinner, for example, Hazel couldn’t wait the 13.5 seconds it takes me to get a wash cloth and clean her up.  Naturally, she threw the remaining barbecue pork and fork down on the floor.  After telling her “No!” and (apparently) feebly explaining why it is naughty and unacceptable to throw her food, she looked at Nathan across the table and said,

“I in big trouble, Daddy,”  followed up with,

“I just actin’ crazy.”

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“Baby bear wants a pancake.”
Right….

Although I have never described her particular behavior as such, she now uses “actin’ crazy” as justification for doing anything she knows she shouldn’t.   I truly hope her newfound defense isn’t foreshadowing.  If she’s practicing her insanity plea for a future crime, then my parenting skills are even better than I thought.

Earlier this week, after a particularly exhausting series of offenses, temper tantrums, refusing to listen and total defiance, I lost my $hit cool and yelled at Hazel.  I don’t remember what the exact culminating act was, but she became uncharacteristically quiet.  Fortunately, she didn’t cry.  She didn’t even pout.  She simply left the room, walked down the hall and sat down next to our pug, Curry.  Feeling guilty for my impatient reaction, I peeked my head around the corner to make sure she was okay.  I then witnessed her lean toward her beloved canine and all-too-clearly say,

“It’s okay, Curry.  Mommy’s just crazy.”

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I know, she scares me too. We’ll get through this together, brother.

I hope, at the least, Hazel’s perception of mommy is able to pull off a flattering straightjacket.  A few more of our chatterbox’s phrases stuck on repeat:

“Go ahead, I’m not ready yet.” (bedtime)

“OUUUUCHHHH.  My leg! That hurts my butt!” (attempting to make her wear pants)

“These my biker boots.  They’re tough.” (admiring her sparkly winter boots)

“Oh crapper.” (anytime she drops something)

“I got a big mudpile.” (she needs her diaper changed)

And so it goes.  Our little one is catching on to the ways of the world faster than we anticipated.    While we’re (mostly) keeping our cussing in check (as highlighted here), we apparently need to upgrade our filters and only converse using the classier dialects of Mister Rogers or Big Bird or a nun.

In the meantime, we dread look forward to her new, unexpected word of the day and whatever inopportune, inappropriate phrase she chooses to mimic next.  Keeps life interesting and keeps us on our toes, I suppose.

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“Stop swinging your arms and let’s pick up the mess you made, please.”
“I can’t!! I’m justa ballerina!”

Wish us luck.

SAP ALERT: Celebrating the two best years of my life (so far).

It’s hard to believe now, but for a large portion of my life I didn’t want to have kids.   True story.  It wasn’t because I didn’t like children or babies – I’ve always adored tiny humans.  Procreating just wasn’t something I thought I needed or desired in life.  I had different plans.  I was, after all, going to be a pediatric cardiologist, and I would spend what little free time I had from my lucrative practice volunteering to perform open heart surgeries on needy children in third world countries.  It wouldn’t be fair to put my own offspring on the backburner while I prioritized the success of my work and helped needy orphans in India (because apparently they have heart defects AND no parents? – yeeesh).  If that didn’t pan out, then I would probably fall back on being a photojournalist for National Geographic.  This would require frequent and extended travel to obscure locales with limited communication, and what if I contracted Dengue Fever or Hepatitis A from residing with the locals?  How selfish would I be to put my own health in such jeopardy when I should be focused on the health of another?  And if THAT plan didn’t work out, then…well…you get the idea.  I had an ongoing list of illustrious and adventurous career choices that were neither conducive to nor favorable for childbearing.

I remember telling Nathan in our early days of courtship (do people still say ‘courtship’?  Probably not…) that it was too bad I liked him so much because marriage and kids just weren’t in the cards for me.  He smiled smugly, responded with something overly confident like “Oh, we’ll see about that,” I rolled my eyes and we went about our dating ways.

But along the way – obviously – something changed. Maybe it was the overwhelming love we shared for our nieces and nephews.  Maybe it was seeing friends and family around us having babies and seeming, surprisingly, both happy and successful.  Whatever it was, after several years of marriage, multiple moves, completing my education and a couple blissful years of being D.I.N.K.’s, Nathan and I came to the intelligent conclusion, “Why not?” and thought we’d give baby-making a go.

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Baby T-rex in utero

We had miraculous, fortunate – and faster than expected – success.  I’m ashamed to admit our initial reaction to the pink plus sign on the first pee stick  – and the 6 that followed – were words of the four letter variety.  It wasn’t because we weren’t happy, excited, or grateful, but I’d be lying if I said we weren’t overwhelmed.  We couldn’t help but feel denial with a side of panic.  What were we thinking?  Clearly, we were idiots.  Why did we think we were qualified to create, sustain and nourish a life?  Did we have the credentials? Who were we to put this poor, innocent child through the burden of having us as parents?

But shock and denial quickly turned to bliss and gratitude and anticipation, and before we knew it, parenthood became an overwhelming reality.  Along the way, I presume the physical and emotional changes of procreation took over our feeble minds.  I am convinced nature does a brainwashing of sorts – the changes in hormones, neurotransmitters, electrical impulses change not only your desires and priorities, but your overall thoughts, personalities, demands, circadian rhythm, conscience and even consciousness.  Since Hazel arrived the last day of November, 2011, Nathan and I’s lives have never been – and, of course, never will be – the same.

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Most people cry the first time they meet Nathan and I.

I haven’t had a full night’s sleep in over 2 years.  I can count on one hand how many movies I’ve seen in the theater.  I can count on that SAME hand how many times I’ve left the state.  We haven’t taken any extravagant vacations, haven’t been on an airplane, and haven’t left the country.  Our DVR queue is filled with movies and shows I am certain I will never see.  With the exception of fashionable maternity necessities, I can’t remember the last time I shopped for myself.  In 24 months, I haven’t tried any exotic new foods, learned any new languages, taken on any new hobbies or expanded our social network.  And you know what?

I wouldn’t change it for the world.

Because despite the sleeplessness, homeliness, reclusion and overall loss of freedom, I am more happy, appreciative and patient than I ever thought possible in my previous 27-ish years of life.  I have given and felt more love than I deserve.  I like to think I had a big heart before procreating, but in my sophisticated mind, I often liken the changes of parenthood to the Grinch.  “And what happened, then? Well, in Whoville they say – that the Grinch’s small heart grew three sizes that day!”  This cheesy, Christmas-y, childhood story quote seems – to me – to so accurately describe what happens the first time you see your child.  I in no way want to convey or insinuate that true happiness and love only occur when you have kids.  That’s not true. I am confident Nathan and I would be very happy even if we had decided not to remove the goalie (his affectionate term) and make babies.  There’s no question we’d be a lot wealthier, healthier and sociable if we hadn’t.   But since having Hazel 2 years ago, it’s as though another dimension of happiness has been opened to us and we have a much greater appreciation for life, health, family and time.  Our previous goals and driving forces have been replaced with whatever allows us to spend the most time together and with our beautiful daughter.

I'm smiling, but please help.  These people are always watching, always smothering me.  I can't walk yet, so I need assistance escaping.  Please.

I’m smiling, but please help. These people are always watching, always smothering me. I can’t walk yet, so I need assistance escaping. Please.

Hazel, in 2 incredibly fast years, has amazed me and taught us what truly matters in life.  I have laughed, smiled, snuggled, and hugged more than one should merit in a lifetime.  I have cried and worried more, as well.  Mama bear instinct has kicked in and I’m more protective than I ever thought I was capable of.  When someone relates they would take a bullet for another, or risk their own life for someone they love, you agree.  And with your own child, you know there is no hesitation.  If someone offered me a life of poverty, pain and destitution to guarantee our babies would never endure heartbreak, illness or suffering – I would leap at the opportunity.  I spend perhaps too many free moments wondering how I can keep her safe, happy and untainted by the world.  I occasionally find myself daydreaming of giant bubbles (Crazy? Yes.)

Per usual, I have gotten carried away with this post.  I blame my fingers and the sticky, crumby keyboard (Apple Larabar remnants?) beneath their tips.  I could go on and on – more than I already have – about how much we love and adore Hazel.  My inadequate words don’t do justice, but we are indescribably grateful for our sweet daughter and the 2 years of utter happiness she has provided us.  I can sense the eyerolls and fake gagging of the few people who have stuck on to read this far and will try and bring this solilioquy to a necessary close.  We are anxious and excited for the what the future brings, we hope and pray we can provide our sweet, healthy, smart, funny and affectionate little girl the life she deserves, and are filled with even more anticipation to see how bringing a baby brother in the mix will alter – and augment – our lives.

And with that, feast your eyes on a barrage of birthday pics.

I’m sure I’ll be back to my cynical self in the next post.

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Party preparations are too intense to wear a shirt.

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She generously offered to let Curry blow out the candle.

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The Rogue Turd: Adventures in Potty Training

Hmmm…this title might be a bit misleading.  Potty training and the clown show we are currently performing are loosely associated, at best.  Since the ideal outcome of both is a child who uses the toilet instead of their pants to relieve themselves, however, it’ll suffice to call our efforts potty training.  It’s not that our efforts aren’t genuine or that we are apathetic or lazy in this endeavor, it’s just that attempting to train our independent, stubborn strong-willed daughter to do…well…anything is generally met with an admirable but frustrating resistance.  Plus, when I hear the word “training,” I can’t help but picture a rolled up newspaper and a nose pushed near a pile of poo.  It may be effective for our furry friends, but it doesn’t seem very nice or appropriate to do this to a 23 month old girl.  Although we might just throw her outside the next time she has an accident (KIDDING! It’s way too cold).

We’ve witnessed the horrors feats of potty training in those around us and it wasn’t until several months ago that I came to the realization we might actually have to embark on this enviable journey at some point.  During my pregnancy with Hazel, I apparently entered my email for something somewhere in the vast spam-o-sphere of internetland because I have since received countless monthly email updates with baby tips, advice, milestones, “what to expect,” and other garbage.  I ignore most of these because we already know EXACTLY what we’re doing at all times and are basically pregnancy and parenting experts who don’t have time for these measly pointers.  Besides, other than the glaringly obvious and concerning milestones, a lot of them are variable and subjective and at different points make you feel like the best parent in the world (“My kid rolled over a whole month early – they’re superhuman!”) or like you’re mucking up their development (“My two year old is supposed to be using utensils regularly, but prefers to shove applesauce in her face by the fistful.  I have failed her for life”).

Every so often, though, I will open and peruse these unwelcome inbox-fillers, and I’ll never forget the 18-month update.  I skimmed through with a growing ego as I silently checked off my amazing toddler’s accomplished milestones with ease.  But then came the unexpected: ‘Your baby may show interest in or have already have started potty training.’  What the…? REALLY?  18 months?  I was shocked, to say the least.  This couldn’t be accurate.   Any potty-trained 18 month olds were probably Doogie Howser-type genetic freaks or their parents must have withheld affection and meals until their darlings had consistently dry, white-glove tested bottoms.  I likened these tots’ existence to that of the elusive Bigfoot or the Chupacabra. Debatable.

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I didn’t need diapers after my first birthday. But I’m still a dork.

At the least, however, it sparked the thought of having Hazel out of diapers before college.  We knew with her demeanor it would have to be on her cue, at her doing and with her interest, but we knew it could happen….eventually.

Fastforward to a few weeks ago (because I’m rambling…again…and not in a cool Allman Brothers way).  Hazel developed a heinous diaper rash overnight and despite everything we tried, it didn’t seem to want to heal.  The best treatment? Nudity.  Much to her glee, we have been letting her hang out sans pants as much as possible and allowing good ol’ air and nature treat her nasty ailment.  Though letting a normally diapered tot run amuck is about as relaxing as a game of Russian Roulette, we thought it would be a good opportunity to introduce Hazel to the porcelain throne.

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Potty Party >>> Pity Party!

Our flawless routine encompasses sitting her on the potty at various times a day, urging her to tell us when she has to potty and then singing/dancing/applauding/cheering/hugging and acting-a-fool anytime she obliges or has a successful void.  Our reactions probably resemble that of a lottery winner or an audience member during one of Oprah’s ‘Favorite Things’ giveaway, but really – who needs a new car when you could have a 2 year old that no longer poops their pants?

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No more diapers? No more Pull-Ups? It’s a Christmas miracle!! AHHHHHH!!!!!!

Last week I had a minor disaster – to which the title alludes – that I’ll consider a memorable hiccup in the marathon (definitely not a sprint, people) of potty training.  I was letting her air out per our current prescription/plan.  I sat her on the toilet for a trial run.  She proceeded to sing and laugh and grunt with enough enthusiasm and vigor to make a World’s Strongest Man competitor jealous.  Not surprisingly, it was all an elaborate and humorous act that failed to produce our desired results, but it was an attempt nonetheless.  I let her down and invited her to come downstairs to play while I folded laundry.  While in the laundry room I peeked out at her – seemingly every several seconds – to ensure she was playing safely and happily and not trying to feed Curry, our pug, any more of her toys.  All was well and status quo when on the last glance something seemed…off.  She was still singing, happy and as far as I could tell without a sharp object in hand or having swallowed any corrosive materials.  Her stance and movements, however, seemed…awkward and uncomfortable.  I closed the dryer and hustled out to witness….the prairie dog.  She was prairie doggin’ it and at this point half-limping in a failed attempt to hold in the very mess we had been trying so desperately to prevent.  I tripped/lunged in her direction screeching, “Nooooo……waiiiiiittt…..grossss!!”  In one swift swoop I swung her over my shoulder, sprinted to the bathroom – not even 10 feet away – and plunked her down on the toilet.  It was too late.  Tragedy had struck.  Her leg and foot, and now my shoulder and hair had fallen victim to her apparent incontinence.  Failure.  Seeing the panic in my eyes and showing obvious remorse, I downplayed my disgust for my new shirt accessory and tried to downplay my initial reaction.  “Its okay, it was an accident.  We’ll get there next time. Just tell mommy, okay?”

While doing damage control and cleaning up the carnage of her lower half and my upper, I examined the evidence and – CSI style – concluded there had to be more to the mess.  The shape, the consistency led me to believe there was more to the scene.  Setting her back down I rushed out to the downstairs living area where she had been playing.  I scanned the carpet, walked slowly over every tile, analyzing every bit of grout.  I even caught myself lifting up furniture – as if she had the time or strength or desire to leave a dookie under the loveseat?  I searched high and low and, to no avail, found no messes.

Sighing with relief and thanking the stars I wouldn’t have to bust out the carpet cleaner, I suddenly locked eyes with our beloved pug on the opposite side of the room.  He paused, seemed to give a silent nod of acknowledgement and…..licked his lips.

If you learn anything from this story and you choose to go with our nudity method, just be prepared to take (crap) matters into your own hands.  Our efforts have been about 10% fruitful, and at the current rate we project Hazel might reach 100%  by 4th grade.  And that’s okay.  We are patient, not pushing her, and genuinely thrilled with and celebrating even the littlest of successes so far.

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Enjoying the new hang out.

You may, however, want to monitor any pets in the vicinity while undertaking this gamble.

[FYI: Don’t get grossed out.  She wasn’t dropping a deuce or anything in this photo….she was serenading me, kicking her heels and asking when she could flush.]