I Refuse to Put My Phone Down

phonedown

Maybe that’s a bit extreme.  Maybe instead of “I refuse to put my phone down” it should say “I’m not going to stop capturing memories as often as I can.”

Because, I’m forgetting.  I hate to admit it, but there it is.

I’m forgetting.

I’m forgetting the way Cabin Girl looked as a baby.  Cabin Boy and Mr. Monkey, too.  I see their sweet baby faces every time I look at The Kraken, but when I try to remember their faces specifically… it’s slipping.

The toothy grins.  The little teeth.  The funny looks.

The phases of their precious babyhoods flew by so fast.  Their toddlerhoods and childhoods, everything sweeping by us in what feels like eternity but passes in a blink.  The days drag by but the weeks, months, and years are speeding past, too quickly to keep hold of.

And so I take my pictures.  I step out of one moment for 10 seconds so that I can capture it, savor it, and have it forever when I will no longer remember clearly.  I refuse to put my phone down, to be bullied by phrases like “You’re missing out on the here and now!”

I am enjoying the moment, stepping back from it, then jumping right back in.  No regrets that night, kicking myself for not capturing the way The Kraken gazed at her big brothers while they sang sweet songs to her.  They aren’t just moments for me, they’re moments for my kids, too.  Some day, my kids will hear me tell stories about the things they did together, the little, everyday things, and I’ll have to struggle to remember what they looked like.  Or, heavens forbid, I won’t remember some of the best, simple things they did.

So I refuse to put my phone down.

Because that day of not remembering is coming sooner than I’d hoped.

Cutting Ties

cuttingties

My alarm goes off at an ungodly hour.  With a nursing baby, all sleep is precious.  It seems asinine to willingly wake up before the sun.

I gently wake Captain, then quietly walk out to the kitchen to get the coffee brewing for him.  None for me, though.  Not today.

I return to the bedroom, pull on my yoga pants and change into a relatively clean shirt.  I’m not winning any awards for best-dressed patient.

My cousin arrives to take care of the 3 older kids for an undetermined amount of hours.  We settle the baby in her car seat while relaying the basic information; feed them, let them watch tv, Cabin Girl needs to be ready for school and out the door by 8:30.  Nothing complicated.  Keep it easy for everyone.

It’s time to go, and I’m not ready.  But, I have to be.

Captain, the baby, and I get into the car.  The sun is taking its time making an appearance.  It is still bitingly cold and dark.

We make some small talk during the drive; how I’m grateful my surgery is first thing, what I packed for the baby to make Captain’s alone time with her easier, wondering if the kids have woke up yet to discover us gone.  Mostly, though, we are silent.

Captain reaches for my hand, knowing, if not understanding, that my heart and brain are enduring a whirlwind of emotions.  His hand is warm and strong, like he always is.  Those are two of the reasons why I love him.

It is too early for valet parking, so we find a spot and pick our way through the dimly lit parking lot.  The wind blows fierce and bitterly cold, like the pang of uncertainty that keeps surfacing whenever I actually think about what I am heading towards.

I get checked in and the nurse is blunt, not yet awake enough for the long day ahead of her.  She warms slightly when she notices Captain holding our baby, and she gives me a small, understanding smile.

We find a place to sit in a waiting room of anxious patients and their soon-to-be caregivers.  I take the baby in my arms and lose myself in her smiles and wondering eyes until a different nurse comes through the double doors and calls my name.

I put on a smile and give the baby back to Captain, then I stand and follow the nurse.  My steps are confident.  Eager, even.  No need to share the terror gripping my heart with anyone.

Through minutes that feel like hours, I am undressed, cleaned, poked, and prodded to the surgical prep nurse’s satisfaction.  I answer what seem like the million and one questions I have already answered dozens of times before.

Captain brings the baby to me to nurse one more time.  They are a good distraction.

My Doctor comes to make sure I’m all set, cooing as he always does over the baby, and reassuring me that it will be quick and easy.  I smile and nod, but, when the anesthesiologist comes in to discuss what is going to happen to me, I can feel the tears prick my eyes.

I have been through similar surgeries before, I’m not too worried, I hear myself say.  If he knew I was lying, would he have proceeded?

The nurse returns, and it’s time.  Swift kisses are exchanged with Captain and the baby, and I am pushed down a corridor full of masked faces bustling about their morning and through another set of double doors into a room as cold as a refrigerator.

The anesthesiologist directs me onto the operating table and proceeds to put ekg stickers on my head, chest, and ribcage.  I remind myself to breathe…

…and then I wake up.

I am warm, and groggy, and there is an obnoxious beeping near my head.

I close my eyes and drift in a fog for seconds that feel like days.

A recovery nurse comes to my bedside and asks gentle questions.  Questions which I forget instantly, but I answer, and the answers are good enough that I am moved to another recovery area where Captain and the baby could come sit with me.

Captain smiles.  He tells me that the Doctor said everything went perfectly.

Even through the fog of drugs, my heartache is acute.

It went perfectly.

I am sterile.

I will never bear children again.

And, though I wish to cry, I smile.

This was the best choice for our family.

I have five reasons not to have another baby.  One is the man I love; He does not want more children.  The other 4 reasons are the beautiful children we already have; They deserve me in a quality I could not offer if we were to have another baby.

There are other reasons, yes, but these are the ones that matter the most.

I don’t regret having the surgery.

But I have not yet come to terms with cutting the ties of the most defining part of my life.

Maybe… maybe I never will.

Teachers Should Adopt THIS Kind of Valentine’s Day Celebration

hpantival

I have never made it secret that I was a weird kid.

I spent a lot of after-school time in the 2nd, 3rd and 4th grades crying because I felt like I didn’t have any friends.  One of the friends I did have, used to punch me in the gut.  Looking back now, I understand that a lot of us just didn’t know how to express ourselves.  Dare I hang out with this person, or will someone make fun of me?  I KNOW!  Pretend I don’t like them, but hang out with them anyway! 

Others would pretend they liked me and then ridicule me amongst their real friends.  No, don’t make fun of Jessica, she’s one of us COOL KIDS. *snickering laughter*

Yeah.  Confusing much?

Valentine’s Day was always the worst.

My box decorations were never as good as the popular girls’.  My Valentine’s cards, while I thought they were cute, were generally the least trendy around.  And, even though the rule “Bring everyone in your class a Valentine card” was there, you knew people liked you if you got candy in your box, or even multiple Valentine cards from the same person.  Even better were the super-special Valentines from secret admirers.

Every year, I would get my hopes up.  Maybe this will be the year that someone secretly admires me.  Maybe I’ll get a piece of candy from someone.  Maybe my box will be the prettiest.

Off I would go, tummy fluttering, palms sweaty.  Hopeful that this year, THIS year would be it… yet, as the Valentine’s Day party wore on, the fluttering would turn sour, and I would go home with a bunch of meaningless, store-bought paper images with general “To: My Friend” sentiments.  Rarely did anyone take the time to write my name.

The past few years I have watched Cabin Girl blossom, making friendships with any and everyone.  It is, honestly, a relief to know that she will never want for friends to make her feel special.

Now though, I worry about the other kids in her class.  The ones who are like I was.  The ones who may look at my daughter and think, Why don’t people treat me the way they treat her?

In all the hype leading up to Valentine’s Day this year, I received a note from Cabin Girl’s teacher:

“Please send $2 to school for our Valentine’s Day celebration.  The 2nd grade classes will be decorating cookies in lieu of exchanging cards.”

I was overwhelmed by the sense of gratitude I feel for these teachers.

Part of it, yes, is because I was really not looking forward to spending money/time on cards that, really, kids will be disappointed in if there isn’t sugar attached.

hpantival

But mostly, it gives me relief to know that one of biggest potentially disappointing situations a kid can face through the school year is being removed.

Today, I hope that everyone enjoys the camaraderie that is experienced when doing something new and special together.

I am eagerly awaiting Cabin Girl’s return home, so I can hear about her day made special, not from receiving, but from doing.

I hope she saves her cookie so I can see it.  And, for $2, it better be a big freaking cookie.

 

It was written for romance, but ‘A Thousand Years’ is far better as a lullaby

thousandyears

Christina Perri wrote A Thousand Years to capture the love story of Edward and Bella in the film Breaking Dawn Part 1.

Now, judge me if you must, but I’m a fan of the Twilight Saga.  It was an epic fantasy, and provided a wonderful escape from reality, which is why I read.  I love a few moments each day in a world with possibilities beyond humanity.

I also adore Christina’s song, but not because of Edward and Bella.

Time and again, no matter how often I hear this song, it brings me back to the first moments I had with each of my children:

“Heart beats fast,
Colors and promises”

My dreams of becoming a mother, mother of two, three, four…  In the urgent seconds just before their precious lives became forever part of mine.

“How to be brave
How can I love when I’m afraid
To fall”

Will I be able?  Will I be enough for this little person of mine?

“But watching you stand alone
All of my doubt
Suddenly goes away somehow

One more push, Jessica.

“One step closer”

It’s time…

“I have died every day waiting for you
Darlin’ don’t be afraid
I have loved you for a
Thousand years
I’ll love you for a
Thousand more”

And then the baby is here, being placed on my chest…

 “Time stands still beauty in all she is
I will be brave
I will not let anything
Take away
What’s standing in front of me “

I reach for Captain’s hand, he smiles at both of us…

“Every breath,
Every hour has come to this
One step closer”

The nurse gives the baby to Captain, and I watch him run a finger along the baby’s frictionless cheeks…

“I have died every day
Waiting for you
Darlin’ don’t be afraid
I have loved you for a
Thousand years
I’ll love you for a
Thousand more”

My heart swells when his eyes return to mine…

“And all along I believed
I would find you
Time has brought
Your heart to me
I have loved you for a
Thousand years”

We make a silent pact…

“I’ll love you for a
Thousand more”

We watch our family grow…

“One step closer”

And grow…

“One step closer”

And then, it is complete.

“I have died every day
Waiting for you
Darlin’ don’t be afraid,
I have loved you for a
Thousand years
I’ll love you for a
Thousand more”

And every day, they flourish…

“And all along I believed
I would find you”

These pieces of me that live outside of me…

“Time has brought
Your heart to me”

These testaments to the love Captain and I share…

“I have loved you for a
Thousand years”

These children who call me Mommy.

“I’ll love you for a
Thousand more”

Edward and Bella can keep their fantasy love.

I have all I need right here.

Watching Her Walk Away

intentional

We butt heads all. the. time.  Cabin Girl and I.  She is her mother’s daughter, with her Aunt’s Leo tenacity, and her daddy’s smarts and penchant for whining.  It is a struggle, daily, to get her to eat the breakfast she requested.  An hour to eat a piece of toast and a bowl of yogurt?  I just don’t understand.  Moving through her morning routine so slowly that I’ve had to start waking her up earlier and earlier just to get her out the door on time.

I help where I can… but between taking care of The Kraken and making sure the boys are fed and not destroying anything, I rarely have the chance.  This oldest girl of mine, who I had hoped wouldn’t be forced to grow up quicker than necessary.

I see her off to school, every morning.  Walk her to the end of the driveway and watch her trudge the 2 blocks to the corner where she’ll turn towards her school, crossing guards, school buses and friends.

Something about the past few days has me seeing with super clarity right now.  The importance of focusing on these children, these moments that seem too hectic, so chaotic, yet inherently mundane.

Maybe it’s because Captain, The Kraken and I are leaving this afternoon, for the weekend.  Maybe it’s because I know I haven’t been 100% present lately.  Maybe it’s because I’m finally past the uphill struggle of getting this PPD behind me.  But something inside told me to watch her.  Really watch her walk away this morning.  In her purple skull leggings, under her fuzzy boots and a striped kerchief skirt.  Her Mike Wazowski backpack fitting her just right, no longer over-sized, hitting the back of her knees as she half-heartedly bounced her way through the wind.  Leaves scattering everywhere, swirling around her feet before fluttering on their whirlwind course.

I’m glad I held her hand, hugged her tight, kissed her twice, and hugged her again before sending her on her way.  I’m glad I waited to see her turn around for one last wave before she rounded the corner.

I know I haven’t been the best, or the nicest, mom lately.  I have a lot to work on still.  Again.  It will be a war, kicking my frustrations and impatience to the curb.  There will be days when I lose battles, and have to retreat from skirmishes.  But it will be a war worth fighting for.

Because this girl, these children, deserve an intentional and consistent love, not a sporadic, implied one.

10 Stages of Infant Breastfeeding

nursing

Every baby needs to eat, and whether you breast or bottle feed your little lactose lapper, there is no denying that there are stages of infant mealtime.  Here I list the 10 stages I’ve experienced through breastfeeding 4 babies.

1) YOU’VE OBVIOUSLY FORGOTTEN ABOUT ME AND I’M STARVING TO DEATH AND SERIOUSLY ABOUT TO DIE SO FEEDMENOW!

They notify you of this stage by crying or screaming long and loud, with very little warning, and they cry so hard that they fail to notice the nipple brushing against their lips for at least 10 full seconds.

2) OMG, FINALLY!

When they abruptly notice the key to their satisfaction is millimeters away from their lips, they latch on with piranha like ferocity and swallowing as hard as they possibly can until let down. This is usually prefaced by a shaking of the head to maneuver as much nip as possible into their mouth and a suffocating mashing of their face into your boob.

3) Oh yeah, that’s the stuff.

Content, rhythmic gulping, accompanied by the cutest little grunts you will ever hear.

4) Uhm… hey… starting to get uncomfortable here…

They will signal that they need to burp by suddenly spitting up all over you or crying.  Either way, all that frantic latching and gulping from #2?  Gave them a good ol’ belly full of air.

5) I think I could fit some more in there.

That burping freed up some space.  Thankfully this time they usually aren’t attacking the nipple like a Hun invasion reenactment (I may have been watching Mulan while writing this piece.)

6) What’s going on over there?

This is the point that they start noticing there are other things going on.  But woe unto you who attempts to sit the baby up so you can interact with them without your nipple halfway in their mouth!  Sadly, they’re too young yet to learn that it’s not okay to play with their food.

7) Ugh, maybe I shouldn’t have gone back for seconds.

Maybe it’s just my babies that don’t have a ‘full’ sensor in their bellies.  Regardless, there is always 1 feeding during the day at which they eat far too much and subsequently give a bunch of it back.

8) Do you think I could have a cookie?

Feeling much better after unleashing the contents of their gluttony, baby will smack its lips looking for just a little something to top off.

9) Contentment

Here’s where the line between nursing for food and nursing for comfort gets blurry.  I let them nurse either way.

Last but not least, #10:

milkcoma
Here is your opportunity for uninhibited smooching of those frictionless cheeks and inhaling of sweet milky baby breath. Or am I the only one with that obsession?

Repeat every 2-4 hours.

I’m putting myself in tech time-out

The domestic pirate

Time is flying and The Kraken is getting bigger every day.

Since she’s my last, I don’t want to miss anything.

But I’m stuck in this second nature of taking my phone with me everywhere I go.  Whenever I sit, I grab my phone to check up on what’s happening in the outside world.

And a majority of the time, when I’m sitting, it’s with the baby.

If I’m truly going to look back on this time with no regrets, I need to stop trading my enjoyment of cuddle time with the baby for a social media fix.

So I’m putting myself in time out.

The rocking chair is a smart phone free zone.

The laptop will remain out of reach.

And I will squeeze every iota of enjoyment out of this last baby that I can.

Birds and Bees… on the Playground?

birdsbees

I think for a majority of us who grew up with parents that didn’t explain sex early on, there is one person we remember as being the one who told us about sex.  Since most people are in school around the time puberty hits, that conversation usually happens as snippets told by an older, ‘wiser’ child on the playground or schoolbus.

birdsbeesThis morning, during a call from my bestie, I learned, to my chagrin and amusement, that my child is that child.

As the oldest of 4 children, she has had 3 opportunities to ask me about the babies that grow inside me.  Her specific concern each time: How did the baby get in there?!

And I was honest.  As honest as I felt I needed to be with her at each age.

2 years old: Daddy put it there.

Oh, okay.

4 years old: Daddy put it there.

How?

You know how chickens lay eggs?  Women have eggs in their bodies, and, when they feel ready, the daddy helps turn that egg into a baby.

Oh.  I like eggs.  Can we have breakfast for dinner?

6 years old: How does daddy make your egg into a baby?

Well… that’s why men have a penis.  To make babies.

How?

The penis goes in the vagina and a thing called sperm comes out.  Sperm is what turns an egg into a baby.

*Long pause…*

I just don’t understand HOW the penis gets into the vagina.

Let’s find you a book…

Yeah, I chickened out on the last one.  They say that you should only answer the questions that children ask, offering no extra information.  She still hasn’t asked for the book, but I’m okay with that for now.

I did stress that sex is for people who are ready to make, and take care of, a baby.  We’ll have to readdress that down the road, for sure, but, for now, she’s the kid on the playground with the honest mom that calls a penis a penis and just hopes that it saves her daughter from learning through inappropriate experience.  Now to teach her when it’s okay to talk about it…

You’re welcome, and I’m sorry.

When did you get/give the talk?

5 Simple Ways to Turn Yourself into a Ticking Timebomb of Mamma Rage

goboom

Following these easy steps on a daily basis will surely have you ready to pull out your hair and run away with the next traveling circus!

Put off showering, again.  That deodorant and body spray, coupled with being splashed during bath time, will work for the 3rd day in a row.

Surrender most of your hot meal to your kids, but don’t even consider eating what they have on their plates, lest you want to trigger a tantrum.

Do a million loads of laundry a day.  Put on the same clothes you wore yesterday anyway.

Oh, is that your favorite song on the radio?  Turn on The Wiggles Greatest Hits IMMEDIATELY.

Go ahead and assume your children playing quietly means you can have a few minutes to sit and relax.  I dare you.

goboom

It’s MY Fault Being an Adult Sucks

jump in the mud

So many of us, as adults, tell our kids that they’d better stop wishing they could be big, because being adult is no fun.

Whose fault is that?

Our priorities are different, sure.  As we grow, making sure people perceive of us as mature members of society slowly but surely edges out things like playing with toy cars, having tea parties, or playing in the mud.  Sure, things get replaced with bigger, better ways to ‘play’ as our ability to use and care for them are refined; like toy cars being replaced by RC cars, then eventually real cars, tea parties go from having no liquid to real liquid to hosting actually parties.  But few adults (generally) have a substitute for playing in the mud.

There is no one reason kids like playing in the mud.  It’s squishy, sticky, goopy, and makes their mommies cringe.  You can paint with it, coat yourself in it, and fling it.  It turns your white shirt brown and looks like poop without smelling like it.

For the same reasons, adults DON’T like playing in the mud.

And it’s a shame.

It’s a shame that we stop seeing the potential for a splash party in a mud puddle and instead see wet socks and dirty clothes.  It’s a shame that we no longer see mud pies, but rather dirty hands and an evening of getting dirt out from under nails.  That leaving our prints in the mud is simultaneously asking for muddy footprints through the house.  A mud fight that just means another bath.  Not wanting the neighbors to think we’re a bunch of filthy animals.

Yes, getting dirty means a little, or a lot, of extra work to clean up.  But guess what you’ll remember more than the extra load of laundry?

You’ll remember being a child.  You’ll remember what it’s like to enjoy something with no strings attached.  And further down the road you’ll be able to look back on the times you did stop to enjoy a mudbath, whether with your kids or without.

I know, I know… Priorities.  And sensibility.  And pride.

But…

dirtypostcollageAnd clothes can always be washed.

When you choose to worry about the time or your image instead of making the decision to cherish the moments, that’s when we start losing the wonder of being a child.  Time invested in being happy will be worth the returns.  You won’t fondly look back on a day that you scolded your kids and demanded that you all stay pristine and clean, but you WILL remember jumping in the mud puddle and getting absolutely soaked, ensuring that everyone would have to ride home in their underwear (you know, for example).

I’m inviting you to join me and stop having a sucky adulthood.  Do what you love, without remorse.  Take that opportunity to be a little less mature than expected.  Yes, do what you have to to maintain your job, your health, your cleanliness, but sometimes…

Sometimes, you have to stop being a stick in the mud, and jump in the mud instead.

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