FLOP {pretty, happy, funny, real} (Vol. 19)

{pretty,happy,funny,real}

{pretty}

I thought it would be nice to do {phfr} this week, so I reviewed my phone’s photos (no idea where my regular camera is at the moment) to see what I could come up with. And I found, like, three shots that the average person would consider {pretty}. Which are pretty much duplicates of each other:

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See?

Otherwise, all I have to show you are scenes that are “boy” pretty, if you will. You know, like pirates and scaffolding and a jungle’s worth of animals gathered around a single model tree.

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Such is my life these days: a slice of regular pretty frosted with a thick layer of the boy variety.

{happy}

Those boys are so sweet, though. They make me so {happy}. This weekend they earned their own money for the first time. Their cousin had lost a small toy she’d brought with her to my parents’ house, so my oldest son asked his grandma:

“Can I do some work so you can give me some money, so I can give it to Caroline, so she can give it to her mommy to buy a new Mikey?”

My preggo heart was full to bursting – my boy (sniff, sniff) wants to earn money so he can (sniff, sniff) buy his cousin a replacement for the toy she lost? (Sob!)

Both boys did a little cleaning around the house (just toys – not much of a feat) and when they’d finished, my mom paid them each SIX quarters. Man, oh man – were they proud of themselves!

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No, they’re not begging for food — they’re showing off their hard-earned quarters.

And all’s well that ends well: My niece found her toy, so the boys get to keep their earnings. Now to decide what to do with them!

{funny}

Though my morning sickness is tapering off a bit, it still won’t let go entirely. Which is mostly annoying, but once in a while makes for some {funny} when it has the effect of keeping me on the sofa. Because sometimes when I sit on the sofa, my boys decide to do my hair. With tools.

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{real}

I’m kind of cheating here – I grabbed this pic out of my files from a couple of years ago and doctored it up to fit the following {real} thing around here this week:

FLOP

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Yep, my “7 Posts in 7 Days” was a flop. Sigh. Why do I do these things to myself? There was no way I was up to publishing a post every day this week. No way, no how.

Morning sickness is still hanging on. Baby hasn’t been sleeping well. We’ve had commitments. Brennan’s been completely occupied with the roof. Boys have been bickering. I keep walking into the kitchen to find the baby on the table. Then I turn around to find him back up there.

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But I’m going to take Heather’s advice and try to KEEP GOING. I’ve blogged more in the past couple of weeks than I have in months. I have another post partially-drafted on paper and more in the beginning stages in my head. I have some wind behind my sails. So forget the 7 in 7, right? I’m going to KEEP GOING.

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Thanks for joining me, all! Be sure to head over to Like Mother, Like Daughter for more {pretty, happy, funny, real}!

7 Quick Takes Friday (Vol. 34): He’s Not Afraid to Climb the Roof, But I’m Afraid to Ride a Bike

Seven Quick Takes Friday

—1—

Wait, what did I say about posting every day this week? Because yesterday came and went, and as far as I know, I didn’t post a thing. (Shhh…)

For those of you visiting from 7QT, here are links to Monday’s (late) 7QT post, Tuesday’s post on a man who saved 669 children from Czechoslovakia on the eve of WWII, and Wednesday’s post on my 12-week sono and thoughts about mothering all boys.

There’s more to come – I promise.

—2—

If there’s one subject that I’ll spend hours writing on and still not get it right enough to publish, it’s racism. That was my problem yesterday, and it’s been my problem many times before. Can’t… quite… get… up… the… nerve!

—3—

After a kind of foggy/dreamy Wednesday because I was living inside my head, trying (to no avail) to get that racism post right, I took a break yesterday. The weather was absolutely gorgeous and Brennan had taken off work to tackle a project (see below), so we all spent more time outside than usual. I made a stab at weeding the jungle behind our house, the baby sat in his stroller (poor guy – I don’t trust him to roam free), the boys busied themselves with sidewalk chalk and sand, and Brennan went about his work…

—4—

… which kind of terrifies me.

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Do you see the chimney at the top of that photo? Well, there are some pieces of (wooden) siding just next to it that are rotting because there used to be a leak in the roof. We had the roof replaced a couple of years ago (THAT was a PROJECT), so the leak is no longer an issue, but the rotted siding still needs to be replaced. (Or at least that’s how I understand the situation.)

Anyway, Brennan is a worker-bee kind of a guy who would rather do just about any home-repair job himself rather than pay someone else to do it. So here we are. He bought scaffolding (which he plans to use in the future to paint the entire exterior of the house), a harness and other safety equipment (thank goodness), and replacement siding, etc.

Now he’s off to the races. Yesterday he erected the scaffolding and secured it to the house. I believe today he’ll be building some sort of a platform to reach the roof. Then, hopefully, he’ll be able to complete the actual siding work.

Please pray that he does it all safely!

—5—

As I said above, we all – including both boys – spent more time outside yesterday than usual. For one child, “more than usual” ended up being a couple of hours, maybe. For the other – my lover of the great outdoors, his Daddy’s helper and shadow – “more” meant all day. It was so sweet to see: He followed Brennan back and forth between the house and the garage, he helped me weed the garden, he drew “storms” all over the brick patio, he played in the grass next to the scaffolding while Brennan worked to build it, and he even ate his lunch on a picnic blanket with a perfect view of the thing.

I love that child.

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—6—

Since I’ve got a whole “link to an article and write some commentary on it” thing going this week, I thought I ought to include at least one such piece in this 7QT. A light one, with a little personal story rather than commentary. So here’s a Wall Street Journal article on adults who never learned how to ride a bike.

Alas, I fit into this category.

In my case it wasn’t the whole “kids don’t spend much time outside anymore because of cable and videogames” thing – I spent plenty of time outside. It’s just that my outdoors time was mostly spent loading my favorite possessions into a little red wagon, trekking through the neighbor’s yard as if across the prairies, and then building forts behind his forsythia bush.

For me, it was that we lived on a pretty busy rural road, so we didn’t have a ready-made place to practice. And I needed ready-made, because I was a huge wimp about it. My brother grew up in the same house and on the same road I did, obviously, but once our dad had taught him the basics in the back yard, he took off with it. Soon enough, Eric was riding through the yards and the little streets behind our house. Later, he got into triathlons and long-distance cycling.

(Yes, he and I are very different.) When our dad taught me the basics of bicycle riding in the backyard, that’s where I stayed. To this day, I can make a bike go, but I can’t safely make it turn or stop. If I’m lucky, I’ll do a continuous loop of big, wide circles in the grass.

But really, I can only think of one time in my life when my inability to ride a bike was anything near problematic. And that would be on the campus of Stanford University in the fall of 2000. My senior year of college, I was dating a guy who had just started a master’s program at Stanford. I flew out to visit him a couple of times (which felt like a BIG DEAL) and found, to my dismay, that riding bikes around campus was the thing. My boyfriend had borrowed a bike for me to use, and he clearly intended for us to spend much of the weekend seeing the sights on two wheels.

“But I don’t know how to ride a bike.”

“What do you mean, you ‘don’t know how to ride a bike?’”

“I mean, I don’t know how to ride a bike. I never really learned. I can make one go, but that’s it – I don’t know how to control it.”

He was flummoxed and incredulous and determined that we were going to ride bikes anyway. (Clue #47 that he was not the right guy for me.) So I got on that bike and white-knuckled it across campus. I honestly don’t know how I made it. I know I was terrified, especially whenever we were near roads. I also know I was shaky and wobbly and just about at the end of my rope. On the return from our lunch (or whatever kind of outing it was), my luck ran out: I first ran into a (parked) car, throwing the bike out of the way to avoid damaging the vehicle. A few minutes later, I ran full-on into a bush. At that point, I snapped.

I do not know how to ride a bike. I will not do something I am uncomfortable with.” (Death stare in his direction. Clue #48.)

Fun fact: Just before I was due to fly out to Stanford the second time, the boyfriend dumped me. As I had already purchased the ticket (and had very little money at the time), I informed him that I would still be coming. One night I prepared he and his roommates a delicious home-made dinner that caused the roommates to gush that I was a princess and that the (ex)boyfriend should marry me at once. 😉 The other night, I made him take me out to an expensive dinner. It was overlooking the Pacific and incredibly elegant and I ordered whatever. I. wanted.

—7—

Back to my life in the here and now. (And can I just tell you, when I think back on that boyfriend, how very, very grateful I am to have ended up with Brennan?)

I forgot to include sono pictures in Wednesday’s post! So here’s our little cutie #4:

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Have a very happy weekend, everyone! Don’t forget to stop over to Kelly’s to check out all the rest of the Quick Takes!

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Wonderful Because They’re Them: Thoughts on Mothering All Boys

This is post 2 of my series of 7 posts in 7 days. All the time, I run across news articles or blog posts or radio segments that make me want to answer them aloud with my own take on the situation. So that’s what I’m doing this week. For each of these seven days, I’ll take a recent item (by someone more original than myself) and I’ll comment on it. That’s it, but that’s something!

~~~

This morning I had my 12-week sono. Thankfully, all went well – Baby Walsh #4 looks just as we hoped s/he would. As usual, I loved the chance to lie back and watch my baby on the screen, wiggling his body around and holding his hand up to his face. (Yes – I said “his.” No, I don’t know that the baby is a boy. It’s just that with three boys already, I’m much more used to the masculine pronouns than the feminine.)

As I watched, I couldn’t help but wonder who this little guy (or gal) is. I thought of my three boys at home and how little I knew of them when I first got this glimpse at their own wiggly little bodies. And how five, four, and almost two years later, I can’t imagine life without them. It boggles my mind to think of how much is yet to be revealed about this child, and how much I will love him.

I thought, too, on whether this child will be revealed to be our fourth boy or our first girl. Watching him, I realized that I can hardly help but think of him as a boy. It’s what I know. So as much as I’d love to have a girl, I know I’ll be fine if he indeed proves to be a he. He’ll feel familiar to me. And I’ll feel a surge of pride at having a pack of four fine boys to call my own.

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If the baby should prove to be a girl, well, I can only imagine that I’ll stumble out of that exam room in a stupor of disbelief (and joy).

As a mother of three boys, I run across “I Love Being A Boy Mom” blog posts all the time. Mostly, they don’t do anything for me. I find that they tend to either wallow in the misfortune of being surrounded by boy grossness, or serve as overly-enthusiastic cheers for Team Boy.

I’m in neither of those places. I happen to think that my boys are the most beautiful creatures on this earth, so I don’t exactly appreciate diatribes against the publicly-guffawed-about trademarks of their gender. But neither do I appreciate the assertions that “Boys are the awesomest ever! Because sports and loving their mamas and not being emotionally complicated!”

I don’t need to be told that my boys are wonderful because they’re boys. I know full well that they’re wonderful because they’re them.

All that said, a couple of months ago, I came across a Boy Mom post that hit me in just the right place. The author reviewed many of the challenges of having boys, but she did so lovingly, almost tenderly – I felt like I could see the smile she wore as she wrote.

When I’m introduced to another mother of only boys, there are a few seconds of expectation. As if maybe we are going to have a secret handshake. Or maybe we are going to say, “Hey, are there black handprint marks all over your walls? Me too!”

Instead, we just nod our heads and exchange a little smile, knowing we are kindred spirits. Having boys leads to a set of personality traits, namely that you’re not fussy and that you roll with the (actual) punches. If you have a bunch of boys, you’ve probably seen a femur up close. You can get blood out of anything.

Moreover, the author acknowledged what most of the Boy Mom posts don’t – the bittersweet sadness of never getting to mother a girl.

We boy moms won’t go prom dress shopping. We won’t pick the wedding venue. We won’t be in the delivery room. We won’t ever, ever sit on a toilet before thoroughly inspecting it first. But we will strive to raise kind, conscious, able young men. All of this is acknowledged when boy moms meet and exchange a little nod and a smile. The nod is for the food prep and the property damage. The smile is for all the rest: the sweetness of a little boy, and the way he grabs your heart with his dirty hands and never lets go.

This is where I am, even as I stare up at that screen, watching my baby. The one who is still completely mysterious to me. The one who could be our fourth boy, or our first girl: I’m a happy woman in love with my boys, who would gladly welcome another. But who, if I indeed end up with a pack of all men, will always think a little sadly on what I’ve missed.

And that’s fine. I am neither a wallower nor a cheerleader. I’m a mother. I don’t need to be told that my boys are wonderful because they’re boys. I know full well that they’re wonderful because they’re them.

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Another to Love

On Saturday I wished a happy Independence Day to my friends and family and the blog’s Facebook page with the following photo, captioned:

Happy Fourth of July from me and my FOUR!

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Yes! We’re expecting our fourth baby! This newest little guy/gal (who are we kidding – it’s probably a guy) is due to arrive around January 31st, 2016. I’m currently about ten weeks along.

In the interest of openness / I can’t seem to get anything else posted these days anyway, I thought I’d pre-emptively answer a few of your questions. (Assuming your questions are anything like the others I’ve received lately.)

1) How are you feeling?

Awful. Thanks for asking.

I’m not actually throwing up, so I know I shouldn’t be complaining (especially because I have a couple of relatives who had that truly awful hyperemesis gravidarum – IV’s and hospitalizations and all), but being nauseous all day, every day really sucks.

(Can I say here how appreciative I am of my ability to get pregnant and how much I love and empathize for my friends who are unable to? And that I realize I’ve been given a tremendous gift in this child? But… that… um… I still don’t like feeling so sick all the time?)

My afternoons have been especially bad, leaving me lying on the sofa trying to keep it together while my boys use me as a prop in their doctor/hairdresser/wild animal play.

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2) Are you hoping for a girl this time?

Yes. Absolutely. You will not catch me denying it.

Were we trying for a girl? Nope – but do I relish the idea of pretty little dresses and dolls and pink finally making their way into this overly-boyish home? YES.

Not that I think our chances are all that great. Last week I found out that my two girlfriends who had their firsts the same year I did and are now expecting their fourths have each stuck with their own streaks: one is expecting her fourth girl and the other is expecting her fourth boy. So even though I greet 3 boy/1 girl families with “You give me hope!” I can’t help but think our own family is in this all-boy thing for the long haul.

Not that I’d mind having another boy! My boys are three of the best things to ever happen to me and I wouldn’t trade them for anything. Not for girls, not for the world. Should Little One #4 prove to be another boy, I’m sure I’ll feel the same about him.

Indeed, I think my husband would be very happy to welcome another boy. When I announced my pregnancy to him, this big grin spread across his face and he said, long and slow, “Four boys!”

3) What do your boys think about welcoming another baby into the family?

They’re thrilled! They want to know how big the baby’s getting and what she looks like, when they can feel her move in my belly and when she’ll come out. (I say “she” and “her” because they’ve decided they’d like a “sister baby” this time, so of course the baby has got to be a girl. I keep reminding them that they might be getting another brother.)

The five-year-old told me (very seriously) that he knows how much work babies are, so he’ll be sure to help us take care of this new one.

The three-year-old keeps telling people, “My Mommy’s going to have two babies!” To which I quickly follow up: “He means our current baby and the new one. We keep trying to tell him that his little brother will no longer be a baby by the time this new one is born!”

The fifteen-month-old is clueless. It’s probably better that way.

4) Are you sure you’re only ten weeks along? And that you’re not having twins? Because I see that picture of you up there and you definitely look more pregnant than you should.

(Note: This one really should be addressed to nice old ladies at church and kind but nosy grocery clerks.)

Yes, I’m sure about the date and I’m sure I’m not having twins. Yes, I concede that I look more pregnant than I should. Welcome to my world. Some women are shaped like apples, some like pears – I’m shaped like pregnancy.

I don’t really look all that different now than I did before I became pregnant, it’s just that now that I feel so gross, I figure I may as well wear comfy maternity clothes.

That said, I’ve actually lost a few pounds so far from not eating much, yet my non-maternity clothes are fitting a little more snugly around the waist. So I guess my body is already changing shape? I suppose that’s what you get when you’re pregnant for the fourth time in six years!

5) So are we ever going to see you around these parts again? Why haven’t you been blogging lately?

Sadly, I have to point you back to #1. I was so excited at the beginning of the summer to really dig into some good writing, but for the past month I’ve just been feeling so sick. Not only do I feel nauseous and woozy, but I swear my brain has been affected. I have been writing, but I’m having such a hard time putting my ideas together and tying up loose ends that I haven’t been able to finish anything.

Remember that mother’s helper I have coming once a week to watch my boys so I can get in some writing? Well, since the morning sickness kicked in, I’ve spent a couple of those mornings wrestling with words and ideas that just won’t fit into place. And during the other, I took a nap.

I’ve probably got another three to four weeks of feeling sick. I’m really looking forward to August. Though I expect to start feeling better just in time for my mother’s helper to head off to college. (Gah!)

I’m not giving up entirely – I’m going to keep plugging away, keep trying to finish my thoughts – I just can’t make any promises that I’ll succeed.

Until then – whenever “then” may be – I hope you’re well and that you’re enjoying a fun, relaxing summer. I’ll be right here, probably lying on the sofa, surrounded by my hooligans – and waiting on another to love.

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Thoughts From This Side of L&D

So here I am, just days (hours? please?) before welcoming baby boy #3, and – surprise, surprise – I have a bunch of pregnancy/labor/delivery things stewing in my mind. I’m scheduled to be induced this Friday, April 4. (Though you’re welcome to come sooner if you like, little guy!) And I feel like I’m on something of a precipice:

I’m coming off of this (really, quite good) pregnancy a little tired and uncomfortable and ready to move on, but also wistful, not knowing whether I’ll ever experience another. I’m trying to enjoy and appreciate my littlest boy’s movements while I still have them all to myself.

I’m also looking out onto the always-daunting prospects of labor and delivery, not to mention the readjustment to life with a newborn. That’s some scary stuff, there. I’m trying not to dwell on it. (Praying? Yes. Dwelling? No.) I give you, therefore, mostly lighter thoughts from this side of the Labor & Delivery unit:

—1—

It’s really funny to see what search terms people use to find my blog. The other day I had “enormous belly pic week,” “huge tummy pic week,” and “belly pic comparison bigger.” Umm… what are you trying to tell me, Mr. Search Engine?

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38.5 weeks — probably the last belly pic for this pregnancy!

 

—2—

No, really, it’s okay. I know that a lot of women have issues with how their bodies change during pregnancy, but as I’m naturally pretty thick-waisted and round-bellied (can’t believe I’m admitting that on the internet), I’ve never found that I have much to mourn in the figure department when I’m pregnant. So really, bring on the belly. It’s just nice, for those nine months or so, to be able to toss out a happy little response when people ask me when I’m due, rather than wincing and squirming and trying to find a non-mortifying way of telling them I’m not pregnant.

All that is to say: my “bump” doesn’t bother me and I’m not particularly eager to get rid of it. Except for one annoying thing:

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I tried to get my feet in the pic, but honestly — there was no way.

 

Please tell me that I’m not the only pregnant lady whose belly becomes a magnet for bits of food. And water – I’ve found it impossible to wash my face without soaking my belly, even though I’m standing on my tippy-toes trying to bend (my short-waisted, 5’3” frame) over far enough to reach the sink.

—3—

I haven’t registered any weight gain at all at my past two doctor’s appointments (though baby boy has) and thank goodness, because boy oh boy, have I had an appetite lately. I’ve been finding myself ready for a meal just about two hours after finishing my last one. At first I think, “Nah, you can’t really be hungry again.” And then soon enough I’m conceding, “Okay, okay! You are hungry! I get it!”

The other night I was hungry as I got ready for bed – in spite of having consumed my second dinner not long before – but figured I should just push through and go to sleep. So I woke in the middle of the night, famished. I pushed through again, and sure enough, I just about bounded out of bed the next morning to make a dash to the kitchen. I’ll be interested to see what I weigh at my appointment tomorrow. Could my body be burning that many calories right now, or is baby boy gouging himself on my caloric excesses and my reserves?

—4—

Speaking of which… if, at around lunchtime today, you happened to see some very strange, very sweaty, huge pregnant lady actually buy food from one vendor while in the line to buy food from another – yeah, that was totally me. I admit it. I was in the middle of a blood sugar crash, desperate to make it through the line at Subway without passing out, when – behold! – I noticed that the new soft pretzel counter was open! And there was even somebody working there! I ordered a cup of cinnamon pretzel bites while standing in the Subway line; I had devoured them by the time our sandwiches were complete. I have no shame.

—5—

Need I even point out that today is April Fool’s Day? Between this being my late grandfather’s birthday and exactly ten days before my due date (which is when my water broke with my last baby), and it being, I don’t know, a date that just seems… fitting, today’s the day I’ve had a hunch about all along. But, as we’re already more than 18 hours in and I’m not feeling anything suspicious… I think April 1 is a no-go for me. Boo…

(Though – Yay! One of my cousins had her baby today! Congratulations, Bibi and Kris! I was hoping the two babes would be born on the same day, but we’ll just have to content ourselves with the same week.)

—6—

This one has nothing to do with baby, but everything to do with the date: Each year on April Fool’s Day, a bunch of my silly cousins call our grandfather to inform him that the cows have gotten out. (As in, out of the field, through the fence, and into the road.) Granddad’s last cows were sold something like 15 years ago and his once-beautiful fields now grow nothing but houses. Jolly good sport that he is, however, Granddad always plays along. I love my family.

—7—

You would never know it by the piles of unfolded baby clothes all over the nursery or the disassembled basinet and car seat pieces strewn across its floor, but I think this is the most prepared we’ve been for any of our babies. All the furniture is in the right room, a few things are even hung on the walls, most of the baby clothes are washed, and though not all the gear is assembled, most of it is clean. What a relief. As much as I was hoping that today would be The Day, it will be nice if we can get our few loose ends tied up in the next couple of days so we can bring baby home to a completed nursery.

—8—

Why, oh why can’t I experience that most amazing of phenomena: nesting? Everybody I talk to and read about lists off a litany of tasks they’ve completed and obscure places they’ve cleaned before having their babies. Me? I’ve never had a late-pregnancy energy spurt. I drag myself through a task, rest for a while, and then maybe attempt another.

Besides the aforementioned nursery stuff, I have several dirty floors and bathrooms that could use my attention before this baby is born. Hello… Nesting? Nesting, are you out there? How about you come by to pay me a visit?

—9—

Yesterday afternoon my mother-in-law asked me what I plan to do if I go into labor while Brennan’s at work. I replied something like, “I don’t know… call him to come home?” (He works 40 minutes away.) She made a funny face and said, “This is your third baby – what if your labor goes quickly?” Again, I stumbled. “Umm… I’ll just have to see who’s available?”

How could I not have given more thought to this scenario?

The honest truth is that I think I’ve always assumed that this pregnancy would end in another induction. It seems to be the only way my contractions will start. (Even when my water broke on its own last time, I needed Pitocin to start the contractions.)

And I guess I’ve also had in the back of my mind that if I needed help quickly, I’d probably just put out a plea on Facebook. I figure that would do as good a job as anything else of filtering out local folks who are available to help. And in the absence of any other game plan, that’s as good as I’ve got. Local friends and family: please be on notice.

(And yes, if I were absolutely desperate, my mother-in-law could drive me to the hospital. Though with her new to our roads and not a city driver, heaven help us if she has to get us through the Beltway while I’m in labor.)

—10—

To end on a more sober note, I’m going to just admit that I’ve been a complete and total sap when it comes to my boys this week. I look at them and think on how much I love them and how desperately I want to see them grow… and my throat catches.

Labor and delivery are scary things. Though I have no expectation that anything will go wrong – I’m in good health, I’ll be in a good hospital, I’ll have good medical professionals assisting me – you never know what will happen. I don’t forget that childbirth has always been dangerous for women and babies. And that sometimes it still is.

In my middle-class, 21st-Century, semi-rural, American life, bearing a child is one of the most dangerous things I will ever do. I’m not so worried about the pain – I like to get an epidural if it’s possible; if for some reason it’s not, I know the pain is something I can get through. But, safety, health – those are what I worry about.

Not terribly – I don’t work myself up over it. The worry lingers at the back of my mind, rearing up a bit when I gaze sappily at those beautiful boys. I’m sure I’ll shed a few tears on Friday morning when I kiss their (probably sleeping) faces before I leave for the hospital. But then I’ll say some more prayers, grit my teeth, and get on with it all.

And, God-willing, some hours later my baby and I will be safely through his birth. I’ll hold him in my arms and know that every discomfort, every pain, every worry was completely worth it. Until that moment, I’d appreciate if you could send a prayer or two heavenward on our behalf.

Thank you.

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Twenty-Three

In the interest of not completely neglecting my blog during this busy season of preparing our home for two new additions (not twins – just one baby and one mother-in-law), plus the actual welcoming of the mother-in-law and the ongoing prep for the new baby, I thought I should at least do a little catch-up post. But all I can muster is a list, so that’s what you get – a random collection of 23 goings-on, thoughts, and questions from the past week or so:

1)  We’ve been working very hard here – harder than we’ve worked since we moved into this house a year-and-a-half ago. May this (please) be our last push of purging and organizing and moving furniture for some time. (For years. Plural.)

2)  Everyone is very, very tired.

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3)  Pregnancy insomnia is one of the stupidest, most nonsensical things ever.

4)  On Saturday, a few of my lovely girlfriends took me to a lovely lunch to celebrate the impending arrival of baby boy #3. I felt just about giddy to be getting out of the house on a beautiful, spring-like day to hang out with my friends and eat delicious, wood-fire pizza. Mmmm… Thank you, ladies!

5)  There was absolutely nothing spring-like about yesterday, however. It snowed for something like ten hours straight. On March 25th. Will this winter never end?

6)  Change is hard. Or, at least it is for me. Every first day of school, every move, every new job, every new phase of life, every new child – every big change, no matter how wonderful – has been difficult for me to process. I know this about myself and yet I’m always somewhat taken aback when a round of change triggers its inevitable, big, emotional, revelatory moment (which necessarily involves tears). This round’s moment came to me on Sunday afternoon in that most glamorous of places: the driver’s seat of my minivan in the middle of the Safeway parking lot. Boo-hoo.

7)  In the scramble to get preparations wrapped up before Brennan’s mother’s arrival on Sunday evening – and the stress, and the exhaustion, and the pregnancy-related discomfort, I didn’t get to mass this weekend. I hate that. There’s no feeling of Catholic guilt quite like that of missing mass. Beyond the guilt-driven regret, though, I feel like I suffer a loss each time I miss Sunday mass. (Fortunately, it’s a rare occurrence.) Missing mass makes me realize how much I depend on it. Whether or not the little ones (or my own distracted brain) have let me pay attention to the readings, whether or not I’ve been wrestling a jumble of little arms and legs, whether or not I’ve been stressed out or agitated, the mass feeds me. Without it, I feel like I go into my week empty-handed. Missing this Sunday’s mass certainly wasn’t the way I wanted to go into this week of welcoming-the-mother-in-law and maybe-giving-birth.

8)  All that said, Hilde’s move into our home went just about as smoothly as it could have. She’s got quite a way to go to get things unpacked, but she’s safely here and we’re all getting acquainted with one another.

9)  Just about overnight, I have gone from feeling good-but-tired to feeling very uncomfortable and full-of-baby. I feel like this baby is coming soon – like, really soon. But what do I know?

10)  I had my weekly ob appointment (and sono) this morning and all went well. My doctor offered to go ahead and schedule my induction for 39 weeks on the dot, which is… next Friday! As long as the hospital’s got room for me, it looks like I should be having this baby by the 4th!

11)  I still think I’ll go before then, though. My discomfort level has been prompting many a game of “Is Julie in labor?” The answer so far has, of course, been “no” – but I’m making good progress on the dilation front, so… it could happen!

12)  Last week I bought the boys a copy of Frozen to occupy them after the baby is born. Yesterday afternoon I totally cracked and popped that sucker into the DVD player. I may regret it later, but at the moment I was glad to have bought myself precisely 108 minutes of quiet time in which to (finally) pack my hospital bag and (too soon) fret about whether I’m going into labor.

13)  Instead, I started writing this post. Priorities.

14)  Note: when you’re 8.5 months pregnant and threatening to go into labor at any minute, you should probably give your husband a little warning before venturing out at 6pm to give your mother-in-law a tour of her new town. Because when he arrives home from work to find no minivan, wife, boys, or mother on the premises, he’s likely to panic. Just a little.

15)  Another note: eating dinner at 5pm is waaayyy nicer than eating dinner at 9pm. I mean, it gives you actual free time in the evenings that doesn’t involve falling asleep on the sofa.

16)  I’ve got a little poll for the mamas out there: While in the hospital after having a baby, do you (a) change into your own clothes or (b) wear the hospital gown provided to you? My best friend and I were having a conversation about this yesterday. On the one hand, we’ve seen pictures of ladies in real clothes in hospital beds and all the cool mommy bloggers seem to dish out great advice on the comfiest clothes to pack in your overnight bag. But we, ahem, don’t understand the logistics of such a move. Real clothes seem awfully inconvenient for all the checking and prodding and poking everybody seems to want to do to you, like, every 20 minutes. And then there’s the not-wanting-to-ruin-our-clothes thing. Are we alone in going the practical, dowdy route or are there more mamas in our camp?

17)  One more important question: Is gorging oneself on delicious, home-made (but not by me) bar cookies a sign of imminent labor?

18)  We really enjoyed the brief visit from Brennan’s sister and uncle, who drove Hilde here from Minnesota. The boys especially enjoyed their aunt and uncle and were beautifully, pathetically disappointed to learn yesterday morning that they’d left before dawn. It was so heart-breaking/cute.

19)  I had to carry my two-year-old (under my arm – just about the only way the belly will allow) out of his big brother’s preschool classroom yesterday, literally kicking and screaming, because he didn’t want to leave. It was also heart-breaking/cute.

20)  Last week my three-year-old said two particularly cute things before heading to school. One morning, as soon as he woke up, he said, “Today is my wucky day!” Me: “Why is today your lucky day?” Him: “Because I get to go to school today!” His teacher loved that one.

21)  Another morning, on the drive into school, he said, “I’m going to have so much fun at school today! I’m going to be happy and be nice and behave…” Then, to his little brother, he said, “I pwomise not to do bad sings to you anymore. I won’t kick you or hit you ever, ever, ever, ever again. Okay? Okay? Okay?” Finally, his brother gave the obligatory reply: “Otay.”

22)  Big brother’s “pwomise” didn’t last long.

23)  Fortunately, the little one’s tough. Fierce, we call him. He can take it.

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Sweet, Sweet Progress: {pretty, happy, funny, real} Vol. 12

I thought I’d take a brief break from the land of Making-Preparations-For-The-Impending-Arrival-Of- Mother-In-Law-And-New-Baby to sit down and type out a little progress report on that whole thing and a couple of others.

The good news is that we are, in fact, making progress. And oh, how sweet it feels. There’s nothing like productivity to tamp down the sense of panic rising in my chest.

We found out about the change in Brennan’s mom’s move-in date (from the end of May to the end of March) the weekend before last. At the time, our house was pretty much a wreck. The future nursery was so full of stuff that you could barely walk through it (which was problematic, as you have to pass through the room to get from one end of our second floor to the other). Our bedroom was overflowing with baskets of clean, unfolded laundry and my (absurdly large) handy-dandy laundry sorting unit was overflowing with heaps of dirty laundry. Our long-dead Christmas tree was still up and mostly decorated. And the rest of our main floor was also decked with dusty Christmas décor.

But now…

{pretty}

Look! Nothing Christmasy! This room is as ready for spring as I am.

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The tree is down and out, its ornaments have been packed and stored, and nearly all the rest of the Christmas stuff has been put away too. Thank goodness. How good for the spirit, to not be constantly dragged down by seasonally-inappropriate reminders of just how behind you are.

{happy}

Our Room O’ Junk has been turned into… a room o’ less junk. In just over a week, it (the future nursery, that is) went from this:

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To this:

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Laundry has been washed and folded and put away, too-small children’s clothing has been sorted, baby clothes have been pulled out (still awaiting their own turn in the washer), items have been removed to their proper places, (some) papers have been gone through, and (most of) our baby gear has been stacked in one corner of the room. I’ve got a couple more days to finish clearing out the space before Brennan’s buddy comes over this weekend to help him shuffle furniture between four different rooms on three different floors, and the garage.

Speaking of help… though I really, truly didn’t intend my last post to be interpreted as a plea for help (I meant it more like a, “Hey, people to whom I write about my life, guess what BIG things are going on in it right now?”), several dear friends offered help anyway. Krista and Mary and lovely, non-blogging others offered to occupy the boys so I could get things done. Betsy watched my two-year-old (yet again!) while I helped at my three-year-old’s preschool – and she even did my dishes. Another friend brought us lunch and carried heavy, bulky things up and down the stairs for me. She and others will take care of the boys during my slew of upcoming doctors’ appointments. And yet more folks will help us with the grunt work of moving things around before and after Brennan’s mom arrives.

These people are wonderful.

I admit that receiving so many offers of help makes me feel a little awkward and uncomfortable. It’s humbling. But it also fills me with so much gratitude. The fact is, I really am tired. And we really could use the help. When I offer help to others, it’s because I really want to help them. I’m genuine in my offers and I want them to be accepted. So I figure I should assume the same of others. (Note: Never offer me help just to be polite. Ha!)

I am so happy to be part of a family and a community of friends who don’t hesitate to lend a hand when one is needed. Thank you, thank you, thank you, dear ones.

{funny}

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This is the antique dresser we bought the same weekend as the boys’ beds. Due to Brennan’s mom’s impending move, we’ve had to rethink a lot of furniture placement in the house. One of the funny (but really, very happy to me) results was to put what was to be the boys’ dresser in the dining room. (To which I say “Yay! It looks so pretty in this room! And Yay! Storage for dining room linens! And YAY! A non-plastic surface off of which to serve food!”)

The dresser’s marble top has been sitting upstairs in the Room O’ Junk ever since we bought it. I’ve been asking Brennan to bring it downstairs so I can just check this room off my list, already, but he doesn’t seem to think the task is anything near a priority. So the other day, I set this lamp on (in?) the dresser, hoping B would get the hint.

I think I’m going to have to just ask again.

{real}

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It’s all how you look at it, isn’t it? I still have so, so much to do.

{more progress, more phfr}

There has been progress on other fronts too. For one, there’s this very pretty, very happy little scene:

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How could I help but include it? I don’t think I’ve ever been so happy to see crocuses in my life. I’ve certainly never before waited on spring with such anticipation. This week we had days in the 60’s and even the low 70’s. I don’t care that today was blustery and back into the 30’s. Progress is progress!

Of course, there’s also the pregnancy. Here’s my latest belly pic – 35 weeks, taken last Sunday after mass.

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Besides the obvious size and weight progression, I’m really starting to feel like I’m getting close. I feel good,* but close. At yesterday’s ob appointment, my doctor reviewed my most recent sono results (big ol’ baby), noted the (big ol’) size of my last baby, and said that as long as I’m sufficiently dilated, they’ll plan to induce me at 39 weeks.

Exciting stuff! (I’m totally fine with an induction. I needed Pitocin for both of my boys and did just fine with it. I honestly won’t know what to do with myself if contractions begin on their own this time around.) Also – ACK! I’ll be 36 weeks tomorrow, so I’m facing the real likelihood that I’ll be having this baby within the next three weeks, or thereabouts.

Between Hilde’s arrival in just over a week and that news from my ob, this is all starting to feel very… real.

*I think it’s funny that I’m still feeling (mostly) so comfortable this go-round. Though my weight is tracking right where it did with the other two pregnancies, and though I popped out very quickly this time, I feel like my expansion has slowed recently. Or at the very least, I must be carrying this baby and much of my weight differently than I did with the other two, because I just don’t feel as large. I can turn over in bed, I can sit comfortably, I can (even 50 pounds up from my wedding-day weight) still wear my wedding rings, I can cross my legs, and (this is the real kicker) I can still breathe. I swear, this still-breathing-normally-at-36-weeks thing is just… amazing… liberating… wonderful.

Thank goodness. It’s hard enough slogging through most of your random, pushed-aside possessions while you’re dragged down by fatigue. What a relief that my body is otherwise cooperating!

Okay, that’s enough from me. Head over to Like Mother, Like Daughter for other, less rambling looks at the {pretty, happy, funny, real} this week had to offer. And take care!

pretty happy funny real[1]

The Audacity to Breathe: Seven Thoughts on Taking a Break (7QT, Vol. 26)

I have breaks on the brain these days. Like, taking a break. Like, having the audacity to put one’s mothering tasks on-hold for hours (or days!) at a time to stop, step back, and breathe.

As I’m finally finishing up this piece on a Friday, and as I have an oh-so-convenient seven general thoughts to share on the subject, I figured I might as well link up with Conversion Diary’s 7 Quick Takes Friday. If you need a break, I hope you’ll find some comfort in my musings on the subject.

7 quick takes sm1 Your 7 Quick Takes Toolkit!

—1—

Everybody needs a break once in a while. But sometimes that need is acute.

Back in January, I spent a long weekend alone with the boys while my husband went to Minnesota for his stepfather’s funeral. I had originally planned to fill up that time jumping from one fun outing to the next, aiming to entertain and wear out my little ones while distracting myself from the fact that their father was gone. Then we all got sick. It was just a cold, but it was our brand of cold, which left me with copious amounts of vomit to deal with. (Congestion = coughing = gagging = vomiting. In case you were wondering.)

As you might expect, those four days were a little rough. It’s no fun to be on vomit duty by yourself for days on end. All in all, we did fine. We stayed in, we watched a lot of movies, and (most importantly) we kept our expectations way low. Still, a few hours before my husband’s flight was to arrive, I had reached my limit. I was tired. I was frustrated. I was cranky. I felt like I had nothing left to give.

It’s not an unfamiliar feeling.

And I know I’m not uncommon in my familiarity with it. Indeed, it’s probably one of the most universal feelings in modern motherhood: whether you work inside the home or outside, you’re constantly moving, working, doing, pushing, giving… And sometimes you’re just done. You’ve reached your limit. You need a break.

Then you need to figure out how to actually get one.

—2—

You yourself can be the greatest barrier to getting the breaks you need.

Lately, I’ve been very lucky in the break department. But not because I’ve been trying to do something good for myself. Rather, a random (providential?) combination of events and tasks – plus the generosity of others – have had the happy effect of giving me some time to myself.

I went to a morning retreat at church. I had my hair cut and highlighted. I did a bit of solo shopping. I went to a few doctors’ appointments and a board meeting. My parents gave my husband and me the (wonderful! amazing!) Christmas gift of a weekend at a B&B while they watched our boys.

For most of these “breaks” (yes, I realize that a doctor’s appointment probably shouldn’t be considered a “break,” but when you spend nearly every waking hour with little ones, you start to find breaks in unlikely places), I felt the need to justify my alone time to myself.

I went to the retreat because it was given for those involved in ministries. (I cantor and I’m in the choir.) I saw it as a way to deepen my involvement in my new parish. I had my hair cut and highlighted because… well… one needs to do that a few times a year, you know, if one aims to maintain a certain look. (Even if that look can be described as “Kind of taming an unruly, wavy/curly/strong-willed beast of a head of hair.”) I went shopping solo because I was already out by myself anyway, and it was more efficient, wasn’t it, for me to just pop into a couple of stores without boys to get in and out of cars and carts? I went to the doctors’ appointments because… well, that’s self-explanatory.

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The new ‘do (I love when they blow-dry my hair so it looks all fancy and put-together!) with (an old — 29-week) belly shot.

I know that I shouldn’t feel like I have to justify every little escape. I know that they’re good for me, and I know that that should be enough. But it’s so hard to let go of the idea that I should always be engaged in that moving, working, doing, pushing, giving. It’s so hard to not feel guilty about leaving my boys with a friend, or choosing my own need for a break over my husband’s need to get something accomplished at work or home. It’s really, really hard to just go ahead and do something for me. Unabashedly. Because I would benefit.

I’ll bet that’s a familiar feeling to other mothers too.

—3—

When it comes down to it, you’re going to have to just look around, take a deep breath, and leap in.

Or at least that’s what my gut tells me. I’m not very good at doing it. Sure, we hire a babysitter once in a while, but it’s almost always because we’re going out to celebrate a birthday or an anniversary or going to my husband’s annual work party. Usually, any “breaks” I get are at home, in the quiet afternoons when I put on a DVD for the boys and order them to lay on the sofas. (Older son has always been a terrible napper and this is the only way I can get him to lie still for an hour. Younger son goes out like a light about 3 minutes in. Which is why I have, like, a million pictures of him asleep on the sofa.)

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Or on the floor.

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Sometimes the big one even falls asleep.

Jenny’s been writing lately about hiring a mother’s helper and I think that makes so much sense. I probably have unrealistic expectations, but I imagine that if I had a mother’s helper for a few hours at a time, a couple of times a week, my life would be so different – more peaceful, more organized, more all-the-wonderful-things. I’m completely with her in that I would much, much rather have someone come take care of the boys than clean for me. My brain needs quiet, child-free time much more than it needs someone to whip my bathrooms into shape.

But. That decision takes two to make, doesn’t it? Don’t get me wrong – my husband is super helpful. He changes diapers, he cooks, he cleans, he gives just about all the baths and does bedtime nearly every night. He’s Superdad, for sure. And if I really, really insisted, I think he’d tolerate the mother’s helper thing. However, for a variety of reasons, he would not be happy about it. So right now, at this particular point in our family’s life, I don’t think it’s the right fit for us.

But that doesn’t mean it’s not right for you. Definitely check out Jenny’s posts. (Here, and especially here.) Let her, as she puts it, “bring you into the happy, light-filled place where well-rested and highly satisfied mothers dwell: the land of helpful teenagers.”

Of course there are ways other than a regular mother’s helper to get some breaks. There’s hiring a sitter or nailing down your husband (in my case, he’s got a long line of home improvement projects calling his name) to be in charge of the kids for the occasional Saturday afternoon. There’s switching off with another mom friend who’s in the same boat as you. There is – when you’re truly at your limit – trusting your gut enough to call your hubby home or a friend over so you can escape before you blow your top. (Note to my local gals: I would TOTALLY be that friend for you – call anytime.)

—4—

Even when you’ve got one right in front of you, it can be hard to let the break sink in.

Usually when I’m presented with the opportunity to take a break, I hardly know what to make of it at first. I sit down for my thrice-yearly visit to the hair salon just about shell-shocked: nervous, waiting on pins and needles for a small voice to start crying out for me. I feel like an animal newly emerged from hibernation, blinking at the bright sunlight. Without my boys, I feel like I’ve lost my bearings.

I am used to being tired. I am used to being pulled in different directions. I am used to deciphering squeals from shrieks from screams. I am used to running around, bending down, stepping over, and wrestling. I am used to feeling stressed out and annoyed and amused and joyful in a span of just a few minutes.

I am not used to quiet. I am not used to sitting still for extended periods of time. I am not used to people serving me. I am not used to choosing what I want to do.

Maybe this is just me. And (very likely) maybe I sound pathetic. But I find that it’s hard to make that adjustment from the whole moving, working, doing, pushing, giving thing to just… relaxing. Which is why I think it’s important to not let your breaks be too few and far between.

The Saturday after the aforementioned weekend-without-my-hubby, I had the good fortune to have just about the whole day to myself. I started with that retreat at church. For the first hour or so, I was antsy and distracted and (I regret to say so) too critical of the program. But as I got further into it, I began to relax enough to absorb and appreciate what I was in the middle of. By the time I got to the hair salon that afternoon, I was thoroughly enjoying myself. I chatted happily with the hairdresser and didn’t feel as on-edge as I usually do when I’m there. A week later, I was able to set off on my weekend away with not a trace of guilt. It was great to get that little taste of freedom and even better to get to share it with my husband.

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—5—

Your breaks aren’t just good for you – they’re good for your family too.

When I was engaged to my husband, I came to the realization that every single time I went to mass – every time I sat in God’s presence, soaked in a little silence, engaged in prayer with the people around me, and took part in the Eucharist, I loved my husband more. I’d exit the church with a little spring in my step and a little more love in my heart.

Now that I’ve got a couple of little ones in tow, I may no longer have that spring in my step when I leave mass, but I most definitely have more love for my family.

And I feel the same way every time I come back from a break. Whether it’s a date night or a solo trip to Target, I return home loving my boys even more than I did when I left the house. My chances to breathe and relax and get a little distance (read: perspective) not only refresh me, but they intensify my love for the very beings that were driving me crazy just hours before.

That’s good for me, of course, but it’s good for them too.

When I take the opportunity to get away for a bit, they get me back happier, more relaxed, and more in love with them. Win, win, win. They’ve also had a chance to enjoy someone else’s company, become a little more independent, and maybe even grow more in love with me too. Win.

—6—

It’s also important to take breaks so that they’re there for you to draw upon when you need something to cling to.

Two days after my husband and I returned from our weekend away, I wrote the following, intending it for a blog post, which I never finished:

Fresh off a weekend AWAY (seriously – a weekend away, with my husband, without children), I started Monday feeling peaceful and refreshed – energized, even. Just before the boys woke, I stole a few minutes to begin a disgustingly cheerful post on how wonderful it feels to get a break. Given that I’d begun last week by ruminating on death, I dunno… I figured I should begin this one by blogging about something… happier, more hopeful, maybe.

Then it all came crashing down.

Now, I can’t blame this one on the boys. They did wake up a little extra-tired and grumpy from an indulgent weekend at Grandma’s (love you, Mom!), but we had a little “talk” in the morning about what Mommy’s willing to put up with, and it all went pretty well, considering.

No, I got some big news on the phone. Not necessarily bad news, mind you, but BIG news. News that, if it comes to fruition, will change all of our lives. And, if it indeed comes to fruition, I will undoubtedly blog all about it. (I know, I’m a brat for mentioning “the news” without telling you what it is. I hate when people do that. Shame on me.)

Then I heard about a sad, sad story from a friend, who, like me, had a nice start to her day before her fateful phone call. And then I read about more sad, sudden events on Facebook and in my email. There seemed to be a theme: you’re rolling along nicely, happily… whistling, maybe… then, WHAM! Something hits you and you realize just how fragile your peace is.

My day proceeded accordingly: I kept swinging between loving gazes at my beautiful boys, extra softness, extra hugs, extra cuddles – and snapping, hard and fast, at their misbehavior. Because underneath all the softness, I was brittle. The aforementioned news and sadness and stress had put my nerves on edge.

I’m trying, trying, trying to cling to the peace I felt early Monday morning – to the hope and brightness and energy that my weekend, and some other recent breaks, gave me. Monday, I mostly failed. Since then, with some sleep and time and perspective under my belt, I’m doing better.

I know that many of my posts lately have been kind of dig-in-my-heels-crotchety on the parenting front. I mean, there was the whole “I do NOT treasure every moment!” one and the “Boys are NOT easy!” one. I feel like both could have been followed up with a “Gosh darn it!” and a little stamping of my feet.

But lest you think I’m a perpetual pessimistic grump or currently hovering right at my breaking point, let me assure you that these posts belie my overarching mood these days. The fact is, we’re in a pretty good place right now. We’re settled in our home, content in our marriage, and we have two children who can do things like walk themselves to the car and bring me their sippy cups when they need more milk. One can even use the potty and put on his own shoes and coat! I’m well aware that in approximately 10 weeks’ time, we’ll be back into the helplessness that is baby mode.

So really, life is good right now. I just need to keep reminding myself of that. And those breathers I mentioned: I’m soaking them up, folks. I am soaking them up.

Thank goodness I had just had those breaks. Because they shored me up for the news and the worries awaiting me. I am so grateful that I was able to face them from a place of peace and rest rather than one of exhaustion and frayed nerves.

—7—

I’m going to try to be more deliberate and unashamed about pursuing breaks. You should too.

Given some impending big changes in our family (umm… baby?), I’ve been giving a lot of thought lately to how our household functions, how we react to happenings in our daily lives, how we interact with each other, how I feel about it all, etc. I know that when the baby’s born, he’ll arrive bearing a massive wrench to throw at us. So I figure this is my last chance to get things in order for a while. (And I mean that in more than a physical sense.) I suppose it’s my way of nesting.

I remember the exhaustion of having a newborn. I remember the baby blues. I remember not feeling like I’d ever be able to dig out from it. But I also remember feeling like I had to do everything. Make everything work. All the time. No stopping.

This time, I want to go into the newborn period with a very different attitude – a more forgiving one. I want to be able to count it as a ‘win’ when we’ve all survived the day. I want us to be easier on each other, take a break from our other responsibilities, and just focus on the five people here in our little family.

Part of that, I know, will require me to be easier on myself, to make sure that I’m getting what I need to care for my children and love my husband. I’m going to need to be re-filled every once in a while. I’ll need some breaks.

And by gosh, I intend to get them.

Which is one of the reasons I was so intent on going to The Edel Gathering this coming July. I think it will be an amazing opportunity to meet some fabulous women. And it will be an incredible break from my daily life. I’m confident that I’ll return happier and more in love with my family than ever before.

They will benefit. But mostly, I’m doing it for me.

This is post five of the 7 Posts in 7 Days challenge at Conversion Diary. Stop there to check out the hundreds of other bloggers who are also participating.

Spring Teases: {pretty, happy, funny, real} Vol. 11

{pretty}

Do you see the beehive there in the background? Our packages of new bees (we lost our colony in the move) will arrive in April!

See the beehive there in the background? Our packages of new bees (we lost our colony in the move) will arrive in April!

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We had a taste of spring this past weekend, and oh, my, how {pretty} it was. Bright blue skies, warm sunshine, buds on the lilac bushes, an old birds’ nest peeking through the branches, and soft, wet grass squishing beneath your feet… Be still, my heart.

{happy}

Excuse the oh-so-professional finger in the way.

Excuse the oh-so-professional finger in the way.

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Of course our boys took great advantage of the weather, first by digging in leftover piles of snow (with no coats on! what a wonderful sight!), then by moving our driveway gravel from one pile to another. (Over and over and over…) My three-year-old made a little grouping of rocks and leaves next to my perch on the wall and said, “Dese are for my cowection, Mommy! Dey’re you and me.” So of course his little brother had to toss a few rocks on my other side, and declare “Wection!”

I was so {happy} to see my boys running, running, running as much as they liked, moving rocks, jumping in what was left of the snow, just busy being boys. And I delighted in seeing how happy they were, those bright eyes and smiling faces telling me more than anything they could articulate.

{funny}

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I told you in last week’s {phfr} that my husband has been busy painting the boys’ room. Well, since the job ended up taking two full weekends and because the paint fumes have been so bad, we’ve had the boys set up on the family room sofas for a little extended sleepover. Fortunately, they’ve done very well with the change. (It’s not like they’re not used to falling asleep on the sofas all the time anyway!) But I think our poor little three-year-old is confused. Between all the talk of baby coming and room painting and big-boy-bed fixing, the other night when I was getting him ready for “bed” he sat on his made-up-for-bedtime sofa and asked me, “Mommy, is dis my new bed?”

{real}

As it is wont to do, the weather has turned. The past few days have been cold and blustery. So we’ve retreated back into the house. My fatigue (not to mention my, ahem, commitment to Conversion Diary’s 7 Posts in 7 Days challenge) has had me laying even lower than usual, leaving the boys mostly to their own devices. They’ve been handling the situation well, (mostly) playing nicely and not whining too much, considering. I’ve tried to inject a few fun things into this {real} time of too-yucky-outside-to-play and mommy-feeling-very-pregnant. Thankfully, I’ve been pleasantly surprised by how well we’re getting through it all.

I made the boys a big fort, which I think the three-year-old said was "tewwific!"

I made the boys a big fort, which I think the three-year-old said was “tewwific!”

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They made their own... um... I'm not exactly sure what this is. A path, maybe?

They made their own… um… I’m not exactly sure what this is. A path, maybe?

I even tapped into the creative juices to try to get the boys to eat veggies (and chicken) for dinner, a la the "Caveman."

I even tapped into the creative juices to try to get the boys to eat their veggies (and chicken) for dinner, a la the “Caveman.”

At least one of them enjoyed it!

At least one of them enjoyed it!

Don’t forget to stop over to Like Mother, Like Daughter to see lots more lovely {pretty, happy, funny, real} contentment photos this week. And if you’re visiting here from LMLD, check out my other posts (so far) this week for Conversion Diary’s 7 Posts in 7 Days Challenge:

The Little Things
Crime and Punishment and Moving On
The Best Possible Mugging

pretty happy funny real[1]

Big Babies, A Child’s Innocence, Race, War, and Spring: 7 Quick Takes Friday (Vol. 25)

7 quick takes sm1 Your 7 Quick Takes Toolkit!

—1—

Giganto Baby #3

Because my due date is one whole day after my 35th birthday, I get to be classified with that lovely “Advanced Maternal Age” label for the whole of this pregnancy. (Seriously! One day!) The burdens/bonuses (depending how you look at it) of the AMA label include a handful of extra sonograms. I had one yesterday.

As I knew they would, the technician and doctor found that my baby is ginormous. At 32 weeks gestation, the kiddo is already estimated to weigh 5 pounds, 8 ounces. Now, I know that sonos can be well off when it comes to weight, but I’m inclined to believe this one: (1) because the estimate jives with the weights of my other two giganto babies, (2) because – just like my previous two pregnancies – my uterus has been consistently measuring ahead, and (3) because the sono estimates for my other two boys were both spot-on.

So, surprise, surprise, it looks like I’m in for another big one. Which is unlikely, of course, to be surprising at all to anyone who has had the honor/burden of lifting my 30-pound two-year-old or my 40-pound three-year-old.

Just… please, Lord, let me be able to deliver this kid safely! My second son, who came ten days early and weighed in at 8 pounds, 15 ounces, got stuck on his way out. We had a scary few minutes there when his heart rate was dropping and everyone was scrambling to get him out as soon! as! possible! If he had been any larger, I’m not sure we would have had such a good outcome.

So, Baby Boy, how about if, when you get to 8 and a half pounds or so, you decide that you’re ready to just come on out to play? I promise it’s nice out here. And I know a couple of other big boys who will be eager to meet you!

Giganto Baby #2 (Can't find one of #1 at the moment!)

Giganto Baby #2 (Can’t find one of #1 at the moment!)

—2—

Corresponding Giganto Belly

Just shy of 33 weeks

Just shy of 33 weeks. Excuse the blurriness — really old mirror and really inadequate camera on my Android.

—3—

Open Mind of a Child

My friend Krista, whom I’ve mentioned before, wrote a lovely blog post yesterday on her recent visit to the pool with her five-year-old daughter. Her daughter had brought a doll with her, which she proceeded to baptize in the baby pool. Krista writes:

Most of us recognize the story from the Gospel of Luke, when Jesus urges his disciples to bring the children to him, because “the kingdom of heaven belongs to such as these.” It is a story that tends to be linked to the idea that what is most valuable in children is their innocence and unworldliness. It seems to imply that children, in their dearth of experience, are better able to absorb the teachings of faith, and indeed of the world around them. I don’t believe that this is a strictly religious way of thinking. There is a common tendency to think of children as blank slates waiting to be written upon.

Children are certainly unworldly. There is necessarily an innocence to the way they approach their world. They have no basis of comparison. They have no prejudice. Their minds are open. They are open, but I don’t think they are waiting, passively, for us to shape them.

If I have learned anything about children and the way they approach life, it is that they do so through constant questioning and experimenting. They are endlessly pushing the boundaries of their universe. And these attributes apply equally to the way they understand faith and the way they process new facts.

When I think of my daughter, who is at that perfectly ripe age when the concepts of faith and fact are just coming within her intellectual grasp, I see nothing passive about her approach to the world. All I see is activity – a dynamic, unrestrained pursuit for more knowledge, a constant pushing and stretching of the limits of her understanding.

I hear her asking why, and no matter how thorough an answer I give, I hear her asking why again. I see her acting out, and re-enacting, what she is learning so that, through interpretation and experience, it becomes a part of who she is.

When I think of the idea that “the kingdom of heaven belongs to such as these,” I don’t see it as a calling to submissiveness or innocence. I see it as a calling for us to approach faith — and reason — like children do – with flexibility, enthusiasm, ceaseless questioning, and a mind with ever-expanding boundaries. Those are the best things that children have to offer the world, and we adults should not forget that.

It’s a beautiful post, which somehow also includes a totally appropriate reference to… farts. I kid you not. I hope you’ll stop on over to Krista’s to read the rest of it.

—4—

Discovering Race

Reading Krista’s post, especially the following words: “Children are certainly unworldly. There is necessarily an innocence to the way they approach their world. They have no basis of comparison. They have no prejudice. Their minds are open.” I was reminded of one of the many half-written posts I’ve got sitting on my computer.

This particular one is on race. That oh-so-touchy, oh-so-important issue that I feel I have to get just right. Despite multiple re-writes and lots of hours, it’s not, yet, just right.

But its beginning, the only part of the piece to stay constant through all my re-writes, is illuminated, I think, by Krista’s words. (To clarify, her words are above. The following are my own.)

Not long ago, my three-year-old son pointed out to me that he and his brother, and me, and his father, all have “the same kind of skin.” We have light skin, he said. The implication being that there are people with skin that is other than ours.

His observation unsettled me a little. Is he so old, already, to be noticing such things?

A moment later, I was pacified by the recollection of reading recently (where did I read it?) that children start noticing race at the age of three. And I gave what I believe to be the appropriate response to his question: “Yes, in our family we all have light skin. Other people have different colors of skin, don’t they? It doesn’t matter, though. People are people. Sometimes our skin just looks a little different.”

Now, I don’t begrudge my son his curiosity or his interest in making observations. I wasn’t unsettled because his brain has registered a range of pigmentation. I was unsettled because with his observation, he’s on the cusp of inheriting the persistent, uncomfortable, even insidious burden of race.

The thought gives me a sinking feeling.

From my perspective – my white, middle-class, somewhat-southern, raised-in-a-diverse-community, now-living-in-a-decidedly-not-diverse-community perspective – I think race continues to divide and define our society more than we’d like to admit.

And I hate that. I hate the division. I hate the definition. I hate the not admitting. I hate that my boys’ background and skin color will place them in a camp that they bear no responsibility for constructing. I hate that the issue continues to hurt so many who likewise bear no responsibility for the camps they find themselves in. I hate that there’s no end in sight.

I know this is a gloomy little excerpt to be throwing in here, but at this point I don’t know when (if ever) I’ll take up the post again. Yet I thought this part of it was worth airing, especially if we’re already taking a moment to consider the world through the innocent, unworldly, unprejudiced, open mind of a child.

—5—

Neglect in Sarajevo

This is a fascinating series of photos of the abandoned sites of the 1984 Olympic Games in Sarajevo. It’s at once beautiful and sad and it gives me so much to reflect on.

Stripping away the historical context and the emotion that the context evokes, it’s just plain interesting to see how quickly nature takes back what was once its own. I live in the verdant Mid-Atlantic, where every patch of ground left untended for a short period of time will quickly turn to forest. The tiny backyard at our last, very suburban home, was evidence of that. Too many summers, occupied with graduate school (him), wedding planning (me), or new babies (both of us), we let (first his, then) our little patch of ground revert to its true jungle self. (Our poor neighbors!) Brennan always commented on how surprised his Minnesota family would be to see just how thickly and quickly our little forest grew. I always took secret comfort in it.

As I’ve mentioned before, my family has lived in this part of the country since the early 1600’s. In that span of time, of course, the changes made to the land have been nearly incalculable. Just in my own life, they’ve been obvious. In my grandparents’, they’ve been stunning. As I also mentioned in that post, I’ve mostly made peace with the fact that change happens and one can only control how one reacts to it. It’s better for me to see the good in the changes that have occurred, rather than resent them. But there remains a part of me that is grateful for the speed with which nature takes back its own. I am comforted by the fact that the land my family once worked is still there, hiding behind all the fancy new houses. If we humans were to step aside from it for a while, nature would quietly reassert itself.

Of course, there’s also a very human context to the Sarajevo photos, and that’s much more sobering to ponder. Less than ten years after the 1984 Olympic Games, the city that had been the center of the world’s attention for reasons of sporting excellence and international cooperation went on to capture the world’s attention for reasons far, far worse. From 1992 to 1996, Sarajevo suffered the longest siege of a capital city in the history of modern warfare. Some 9,500-14,000 people were killed.

I can’t help but look at those pictures of encroaching trees, crumbling concrete, draping vines, and quiet little nooks of moss and think of the human cost that enabled them.

—6—

Unrest Today

Today, of course, there are other Sarajevos – cities and towns and countryside in places like Syria, the Central African Republic, Ukraine, Venezuela – where conflict is destroying lives and damaging families and communities. Let us keep the people of such places in prayer.

—7—

Spring Comes

I can’t go out on those sad notes. Right now the sun is emerging from the clouds (literally – I’m not trying to be poetic or anything) and the ice is melting. This morning a strange, haunting mist rose off the snow, filling the area with a fog that looked like smoke rising from fields and hollows. Yesterday morning everything was white; this afternoon we see grass and ivy and dirt. Soon, I know (I hope?) we’ll see green shoots making their way up. I am so ready for spring this year. (As I imagine most people in the eastern half of the country are!) We might not be there just yet, but Spring is coming. It is.

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Thanks, as always, to Jen for hosting 7 Quick Takes Friday. Stop on over to see the rest!