Tag Archives: motherhood

What I’m into: Say Cheese

Plotting: So. Excited. I just signed up to volunteer at the American Cheese Society Festival of Cheese, which is being held in Des Moines next month. All volunteers receive an official volunteer t-shirt and complimentary entry to the Festival of Cheese, which kind of sounds like my ticket to heaven.

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Reading: Our latest book club pick, Tuesday Nights in 1980, which is super good, but just got intense! (I started this post as a break from it for a minute.) It’s bouncing between connected characters and set in New York at the turn of 1980 (at least so far) and big into the art scene at the time.

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Sipping: Iced Mocha from Chocolaterie Stam. I’ve been trying to walk to my meetings that are in the Ingersoll area (both to walk the walkability talk and get some exercise), but today was so darn hot, I felt the need to reward myself post-lunch. When I stopped in, I was reminded of their sweet Friday night concert series on their dreamy side patio. I think the concerts all start at 7 p.m. – they had a flyer in the store with bands listed.

Scrolling: Through pictures from Emmett’s third birthday, which we celebrated with a trip to the Adler Planetarium in Chicago on Monday. Gotta get some mileage out of that astronaut Halloween costume!

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We were at my mom’s for a weekend bridal shower for a high school friend and family birthday party, and Joe realized the Adler and Museum of Science and Industry both offer reciprocal memberships with our Science Center of Iowa family pass.

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We figured a train ride into the city would be fun — and it was! We walked the easy three miles to the museum along the lake and past Buckingham Fountain and then took the 130 city bus straight back to Union Station after lunch.

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Pretty much the best day ever for a freshly minted three year old, and not too shabby for the adults and Eileen, either.

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Because Emmett’s third birthday also equals 1,095 days of parenting, a few bonus parenting links I’ve enjoyed lately:

Laughed out loud at this: An Open Letter to the Female Hat-Wearing Dog From “Go Dog, Go” via The Ugly Volvo, which is a hilarious blog I always forget to check.

Tips for Building a home your kids want to come home to. “Happy starts now.”

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Six months, sister

When I was pregnant with Eileen and thought about what it would be like to be the parent of two tiny, needy people, I was a bit panicked. Everyone (my own mother included) seemed to be saying that having two is so much harder than one plus one. And one was hard. But six months into this family-of-four thing, I’m amazed at how great the transition has been. The gang’s all here! And this girl.

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Maybe it’s the mantra of a second time mom I adopted early on. Maybe it’s because I’m the kind of person who likes to attempt to carry all 17 bags of groceries into the house in one trip. Small victories, people. Maybe it’s because Eileen has been a delightfully easygoing girl who thinks her brother hung the moon and Emmett’s taken to his big kid role with goofy gusto. But it’s not just been joyful, it’s even been fun. (Dare I say that? I just want to send a word of encouragement to my mama friends who are chasing a baby and looking with skepticism at a growing belly. It might be fun. Crazy, often. But fun, too.)

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Sure, we have our moments of not enough hands or time or patience to keep everyone happy at once. But these past six months have flown in a way I never would have imagined. I want to freeze time with the four of us snuggled into the big bed in the early morning, Emmett casually holding Eileen’s hand while we resist the clock calling us to get on with the daily routine.

At six months, Eileen is army crawling and rolling across rooms with the moves of some tomb-raiding warrior princess. She’s the captain of wriggling out of her snuggamonkey and clinging to the side like she’s going down with the Titanic. She’s starting to sit up, eat solids and get sleepy earlier in the evening. She definitely has a voice, and giggles most at her brother. They’re interacting and playing together. Her hair swirl is starting to grow out a bit, but no teeth yet – thank goodness. Still waking up a few times in the night to nurse, but goes back down pretty easily. By typing all of this, I jinxed it, I’m sure.

P.S. My reflections on motherhood at six months in with Emmett, when I was just starting to hit my stride and his eczema and allergies had begun to make themselves known. Being able to look back at this is, in essence, why I keep my blog. 

P.P.S. Have you seen this genius invention? Game changer for parents who have attempted grocery shopping with a giant carrier in the cart. I don’t own one, but a friend posted an action photo from Trader Joe’s and I was amazed.  

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Sleep diary

World’s cutest cause of sleep deprivation:

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A diary, of sorts:

3:45 a.m. —  Huh, that was a funny dream! (Something about searching for a donut that was also a churro…) Why am I awake? Eileen slept through her 1 a.m. feeding! Guess I’ll go to the bathroom.

3:48 a.m. — Pulls covers over self and settles back to…

3:50 a.m. — Awakened by sweet suckling sounds coming from the crib nook. Damnit.

3:50 – 4 a.m. — Nurse baby, thankful that this time around it’s relatively quick and easy. (With Emmett, breastfeeding was a struggle.)

4 – 4:30 a.m. — Get on the mental hamster wheel of tomorrow’s to-do list. Resist picking up my phone to start responding to messages.

4:30 a.m. — Fall asleep. Dream about having awkwardly long armpit hair.

5:20 a.m. — Is that my toddler whimpering? How does Joe not hear that? Wake my husband up so he can be the snuggle parent. Go back to sleep. Sort of.

6 a.m. — Damn you, alarm. Damn, you. I’m just going to silence this.

6:05 a.m. — Oh, you want to nurse again, baby? Showering in the morning is overrated, I guess…

This is also pretty much any mother of a baby and toddler, and it could be so, so much worse. Like Sunday night, when I started ralphing, then a few hours later Joe was, and then in the middle of the night Emmett threw up all over his bed. All. The. Laundry. Eileen remained her happy, squealy self and had no interest in cuddling quietly with the rest of us.

Sleep has been on my mind this week, like a sweet, sweet mirage. We finished up our final Mini Medical School session on Tuesday night at DMU with a lecture from Dr. Aoki, one of our faculty clinicians, about the science of sleep. It was super interesting, and of course I listened to it while drinking coffee at 8 p.m., then went home at nine and started finally watching the finale of Downton Abbey that we’d missed during puke-fest 2016 and stayed up until midnight. I was still paying for that last night.

DMU is actually going to be hosting a mini sleep symposium next month, coinciding with the launch of Arianna Huffington’s new book, “The Sleep Revolution.”  Ms. Huffington herself won’t be here, but we’ll have a panel of experts, including Dr. Aoki, some fun sleep-related vendors and I believe even some book giveaways!

Sleep Promo Flier

 

 

 

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Another kind of mom guilt

I’ve struggled to put into words how I’ve been feeling lately.

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I’m not overwhelmed or down on myself. It’s not the blues, although when I brought up the subject with my sister-in-law tonight, I burst into tears. Luckily, she knew exactly what I was trying to express without me fully articulating it.

I feel guilty. Not for being a working mom, or not having a spotless house, or not packing the most healthful lunches. It’s different — a visceral, almost survivor’s guilt. I have a warm home and a beautiful baby and whip-smart toddler and supportive spouse and food in the fridge (although the fridge itself might be on its last leg).

I’m suspicious of my happiness, almost ashamed of my good fortune. I’m ever so grateful, but also kind of waiting for something to shatter, because it doesn’t feel right that I should be allowed to be so content when there is so much suffering in this world. I keep up with the news (maybe too much), and almost daily there’s a story that brings tears to my eyes.

Apparently postpartum hormones are changing at around the four-month mark, and I acknowledge that’s probably a strong contributor to why I am feeling everything so deeply. But  I need to acknowledge my emotions and how motherhood has changed me. I don’t think I was ever indifferent to suffering, but when your heart starts to live outside of your body in the form of your children there is this intense vulnerability and resulting empathy.

I will admit here that I’m not someone who likes to think of things in terms of being “blessed,” and that my spiritual framework is pretty different from a lot of my Christian blogger friends. It’s hard to detach these complex feelings from the tendency for many to have a religious solution, but I’m really not interested in that. A conversation for a different time, perhaps.

And so…I record these days here and in my line a day journal, and find comfort in the beauty of a good book. Currently reading “Cutting for Stone,” by Abraham Verghese. {This NPR book club review is from 2011, not next month}

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Mantra of a second time mom

So much is different this time around – partly because the second baby has her own identity, preferences and quirks, but also because I am a different woman than I was in the first month of my first child’s life.

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Part of the difficulty of transitioning into life as a mom wasn’t the late night feedings, or the early morning wake-ups. It was shedding that skin of selfishness and negotiating what it meant to be a mother in addition to all of the other things I am and hope to be. Over 28 months with Emmett I have developed much more patience, I have worried and seen that worrying doesn’t lead to much more than a headache, I have reveled in the unfolding of his personality and our expanded family life. I’ve learned that — just when you think you’ve got things figured out, the winds shift and what worked like a charm yesterday isn’t going to cut it anymore. Re-calibrate.

I’ve proven to myself that I can be a mother and all of the other things I want to be — just not necessarily all of them at the same time. It’s not to say I’ve never dropped a ball during this juggle, but I’ve discovered the joy in trying. I’ve appreciated the gentleness of Joe’s spirit always coming to my rescue when I’m hanging by the last frayed nerves.

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Eileen is such a sweet baby. She’s found her voice and has an appetite that tethers me to the couch for stretches that can seem to go on and on. But, this time, I’ve been able to believe myself when I think some iteration of: This, too, shall pass. This is a phase. Babies don’t keep. 

I’ve been reading passages of Big Magic out loud to her, a manifesto on what it means to live creatively. Elizabeth Gilbert encourages us:

You can measure your worth by your dedication to your path, not by your successes or failures.

I’ve recognized that motherhood, parenthood, the daunting and divine task of raising human beings — is a creative endeavor. And in the feedings and diaper changes and mundane acts of love, there is a challenge to give this child the best version of ourselves we possibly can. (Sometimes this requires a deep breath and a hot shower.)

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Eileen’s entry into the world

Welcome to the world, Eileen Marie Jayjack! Born on October 13, 2015, weighing 8 lbs. 10 oz. and 20.5 inches long. (For those of you into the stats.)

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I’m feeling pretty great, because this birth experience was the exact opposite – minus the induction at 41+ weeks – of the traumatic ordeal of Emmett’s entry. (30+ hour labor, 3+ hrs pushing, forceps, NICU stay.) I’ll sum it up by saying it felt like I’d mentally prepared for a marathon, but ended up just having to run a 5K. More birth story after the jump, for those of you who want to read about dilation and whatnot.

Otherwise, we’re on our way to adjusting to this new normal. This mystery porch greeting was the most lovely thing about our homecoming. (We took her home in the outfit I wore 30 years ago!)

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As soon as we crossed the threshold, a toddler tantrum/baby blowout and crazy dog combo had pretty much the entire family boarding the Hot Mess Express. It will get better, I know.

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Eileen’s birth story

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How we: Babysitting co-op

I sometimes get questions about the babysitting co-op we’re part of, and I thought I’d share some details here!  Back when I was on maternity leave with Emmett, I used to pop in at a local postpartum group where we’d talk about breastfeeding, baby sleep patterns, relationships, or do fun activities like baby massage. It was a helpful weekly outing to gear up for, especially in those early days when simply leaving the house with a newborn felt like a major accomplishment. This session was almost exactly two years ago!

babymassage In the spot where the group met was a flier on the wall for “FREE BABYSITTING,” and, while it caught my eye, I wasn’t quite sure what it meant. My friend Amy (of Yummy Toddler Food fame) clued me in — it was a babysitting cooperative that she was a part of. As it happens, Amy was moving to a small town outside of Des Moines, and so she introduced me to the group and gifted me with her remaining ‘points’. Essentially, a babysitting co-op is a more formalized structure for parents trading babysitting with other parents who have kids around the same age. You can start a co-op among friends, and it’s a great way to widen the circle and get to know people who are around the same life stage. A babysitting co-op probably not an end-all solution to your childcare issues, but it’s a really nice option for people who don’t have a lot of family in town.

sitting So how does it work? You babysit each other’s kids and attend/host meetings and play dates for points instead of cash. In our co-op, an hour of babysitting “costs/pays” 2 points per kid (or 3 points during a premium weekend night), and additional kids are a point. We offer extra points for sitting at the requesting family’s house, too, which can make bedtime sits a lot easier. Families can also earn points for attending or hosting a meeting or play date (we had a brunch pancake-making play date at our house in February, and in June someone hosted a nature walk at Brown’s Woods). We alternate between a meeting or play date every other month.

pancakes At first, I thought the meetings were kind of a pain, because who really needs more meetings in her life? But aside from being a time to plan upcoming play dates and talk about, say, potty training techniques, it’s a nice environment to get to know the other parents and see the homes where you’re sending kids. There are typically drinks and snacks, which elevate any meeting to nearly a party.

Play dates are a bonus activity, and again, a great chance to get to know the parents and kids. I only knew one of the other moms in the co-op when we joined, and in the year-and-a-half since, I’ve come to really appreciate the people in the group as friends. It turns out one of the other moms and I worked at the same Colorado Girl Scout camp, different summers, and live just down the street from each other now. It might have taken years to cross paths with them, or we may never have met at all!

We use a free site, SittingAround.com, for administration of points/sit requests and as a home base for co-op info, and then have a private Facebook group where we post more casual updates, events, photos, etc. We take turns with admin/secretary duties at meetings, and people can participate in the co-op as much or little as they want. But, the more active your group, the better it is for everyone.

Our co-op was started by a woman who attended the Before & After the Birth postpartum group, and involved some of her friends with kids around the same age, and others who had a connection to that group. Martha has since moved to New York, but was super organized and awesome about starting it up, and even attended a meeting when she was back in town this week!

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Motherhood: Two years in

On the way home from picking Emmett up today, we decided to ruin prelude our dinners by stopping for a little fro-yo at Menchies because it’s Tuesday, it’s hot out, I’m pregnant and he’s charming. (And we got a call from the doctor today saying, without much detail yet, that his allergy levels have gone down considerably. CELEBRATION!)

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The yogurt mustn’t have spoiled things too much, because later during dinner (Joe and I did a weird parental hand-off in the Menchie’s parking lot so I could swing by the dsm unveiling) Emmett said to me: “How was your day, mom?”

If I could describe this 2-year-old phase, it’s a little bit tug-of-war and a lot of heart-melt moments when you realize your child may actually be listening and learning from you after all. We make family meals a time for sharing stories, and I’ve been asking Emmett how his day was, and asking him to ask his daddy how his day was. For him to ask me, unsolicited, was magic, pure and simple.

When we drive past Gray’s Lake and see a sailboat, he quotes to me from “The Max Book” aka “Where the Wild Things Are,” and when we pick raspberries in the backyard he pretends to be Sal and I’m mama bear. We got a goldfish with some of his birthday money (which he named Rock) and he said to me, right in the middle of PetSmart – “Mom, this is Rock. I love him!”

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My baby is a little boy who uses colloquialisms (currently: “you’re kidding me!” “guess what?!”), narrates everything he’s doing, calls his parents names (“worm sandwich” and “dirty sandwich”), offers to help, and asks me not to sing to him (“Don’t make that noise, mom!”). He tells us how much he loves us (soooo much), with big hugs around the neck and wet, open-mouth kisses.

My baby is a little boy who skins his knees, cruises on his bike, pages through his books and watches construction sites with rapt amazement. He’s growing more cautious as he learns the world isn’t all soft surfaces. He’s growing more confident as he assists with every day chores, like making coffee.

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My baby is a little boy whose curiosity and comprehension expand on an hourly basis, and who daily makes me chuckle with disbelief at his intelligence and compassion.

One minute, I’m chasing – reminding him to stop at the end of the sidewalk. Another minute he’s demanding to be held, or screaming himself to sleep in my bed, tiny feet digging into my kidneys. Keeping up with this emerging personality — who exercises his independence and his neediness, delighted and devastated by the realities of life on an ever-changing basis — is like running in the sand. I know we’re getting somewhere, but the footing is constantly shifting. Can’t beat the view, though.

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At this point, my biggest concern is figuring out this next phase of childcare. He’s been with my amazing sister-in-law since my maternity leave ended, but she’s about to have her third child and our hope is for our second child to join her when my maternity leave ends this winter, so it’s time for Emmett to move on.

I’ve taken for granted how amazing it is for him to be able to tag along to the zoo or science center or various playgrounds  and take epic naps and for me to never have to worry about his safety or whether he was in the care of someone who loved him. We’re still third on the waiting list for the full-time program down the street, which was my original plan for him. I think we have a spot for him in a dual language program, which is an interesting environment, especially for such a verbal kid, but the fact that the center hasn’t been returning my e-mails makes me uncomfortable.

Motherhood is all sorts of letting go and listening, so I suppose it’s time to take this next step and then listen and trust him when I ask how his day was.

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P.S. ICYMI, my last post was a shoutout to a few local mamas who I admire! 

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Local mama love

I’ve been mulling a post marking my second year of motherhood for a few weeks, but I just can’t seem to gather my thoughts. So much has changed since the first bewildering weeks, and yet two years in, I’m still asking myself how the heck other parents do it on pretty much a weekly basis.

So, while I continue to gather thoughts, I wanted to give a shoutout to a few local moms I admire. There are a couple dozen I’m missing here, obviously:

If there was some sort of pageant for captain of the crunchy mamas, I think Jenn Riggs would be crowned. I first saw but didn’t meet Jenn at a baby story time during the first few weeks of maternity leave. She was this cool looking lady with crazy curls and tattoo sleeve and this relaxed, happy vibe. Coincidentally, a few weeks later I joined a “natural fit mamas” workout class that Caeli Esser was instructing, and Jenn happened to be the coordinator. Jenn’s the kind of natural connector and resource that new moms need. She’s honest that it’s not always easy, but radiates joy.

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She’s a doula, and started a forest friends play group concept, and any woman who can double fist a glass of wine and a small goat is clearly a goddess.

(Also, if you’re looking to connect with moms in the outdoors, I saw there’s a DSM chapter of ‘Hike it Baby‘ that got started!)

The whole city seems to be awaiting the birth of Ms. Emily Lang’s baby girl, and although that occasion will officially make her a mama, her work with youth as an educator and inspirer has already cast her as a mother figure. Keep your eyes on RUN DSM. I’m so excited that my daughter might just get the chance to go to school with hers. I hope that they pass poems in class. Her spoken word piece on 10 things she wants her daughter to know is full of goosebump moments:

Everyone needs that friend with whom you can be totally truthful, vulnerable and ridiculous. Extra bonus when she has a few extra months of motherhood on you and can be both a guiding star and sounding board for joys and challenges. For me, that’s Arin Hummel. You might know her as the co-owner of Ephemera, the darling stationery shop with the red and white awning in the East Village. Arin and I came of age together and I’m so glad we get to share this next stage of making-it-up-as-we’re-going-along parenthood together. And also moments where we’re more just goofy ladies giggling in the back of a burlesque show, out past bedtime.

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I’m so glad to know such cool women/mamas. I think I might also do a post about how a babysitting co-op works, because lots of people ask and I’ve found ours to be a super supportive network. Shoutout to co-op mama, Alexson, who had her second baby yesterday! We’re growing!

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Big brother, little…

Let’s just go ahead and put 2015 down as the fastest year in human history, OK?

Somehow, I am halfway to being the mother of two. Emmett spent the first night in a toddler bed last night*. Two of our three summer weddings have already happened. I turn 30 in three weeks. The peonies are blooming! Slow your roll, 2015. Geeze.

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And by “slept in his toddler bed,” I mean we found him like this in the morning. 

Did I mention that I’m somehow halfway through this pregnancy? (Although, let’s be real, I fully anticipate going to 42 or even 43 weeks.) I am definitely rounding out quite a bit, and all I want to eat is bagels and cream cheese. Healthy options, of course. And I’ve  already had one big cry about the polar ice caps melting, one of the many pretty-much-out-of-my-control terrors that grips me when it comes to bringing children into this big, imperfect world.

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image via Stately Type

We decided to find out the sex of Baby #2 this time around for a number of reasons. Some practical (I’m looking at you, multiple Space Bags full of baby boy clothes), and some more personal.

I had this cinematic vision of someone yelling “It’s a boy!” when Emmett was born. But instead of a calm, natural birth, it was a pretty traumatic ordeal and in the chaos it was more like “Let’s get this baby to the NICU!” The first few weeks postpartum were also pretty emotional and trying for me. I feel like if I know a little bit more about the person I was growing, I might bond more quickly and strongly from the get-go. (Fingers crossed no NICU, too.)

I think love for our children is like the birth of a solar system, with this ever-expanding infinity of emanating outward.

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I know a lot more now, which is to say that I know that I basically know nothing and that each baby/child/person is completely different and designed to keep parents on their toes.

Either way, I’m excited to know we’re having a baby girl in October. I’m going to have to play Sarah Kay on repeat for the next five or so months.

If I should have a daughter, instead of “Mom,” she’s going to call me “Point B,” because that way she knows that no matter what happens, at least she can always find her way to me. And I’m going to paint solar systems on the backs of her hands so she has to learn the entire universe before she can say, “Oh, I know that like the back of my hand.” – Sarah Kay 

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