Cleaning Schedule: Fail

After writing my last post, I felt haunted by the phantom Super-Mom.  I found myself wallowing in my "I don't even come close" self pity, that and some unfolded laundry, dirty dishes, random clutter and disorganization.  I felt like I needed to devise a system, some kind of schedule to help me keep the housework under control.  And so I organized one neatly on a dry erase calendar and stuck it to the side of the refrigerator.  Easy Peasy.  Different rooms had different days, and different days carried different goals, and loads of laundry were each assigned a specific weekday.  It was fool proof...but not Ang proof.  After one week, I'm already behind schedule.  Cleaning schedule FAIL.  Truth be told, I could absolutely buck up, dig in my heels, and make this cleaning schedule a priority.  But truth be told, I don't wanna.

Wednesday: Bedroom/Darks
According to my dry erase calendar, Wednesday morning should have been dedicated to cleaning my bedroom and washing our darks, instead we met "Yanna" (as Milani calls her), and the gang to go strawberry picking.  All morning as we got ourselves dressed, and packed up our picnic lunch, Milani sang a strawberry song.  She was so eager to sink her teeth into a berry that she snagged one right off the produce stand as we picked up our buckets.  She simply just could not wait any longer!

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Berkley spent a little while strapped to my back before she got antsy, then I sat her in the row in front of me, propped up against my knees.  She happily shuffled her pudgy little baby feet in the straw, and grabbed for nearby leaves.

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Once, as I scooted Berkley forward her hat flopped down over her face.  She didn't fuss, or cry, she just reached out from under the brim of her hat with two chubby little hands and felt around for more leaves, without a peep.  It was so funny Ariana almost had tears streaming down her face.

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We all had to sample the goods.  The kids plunked berries into their buckets, and then snuck them  from their buckets to their mouths, until they all had red berry goatees.

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For being so eager to get her hands on a strawberry, Milani had her fill of picking, and eating long before our buckets were filled.  Sister knows what she wants and is getting good at dishing out the sass when she doesn't get her way.

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Sass Face

Luckily, Yanna offered her a comfy lap seat until we finished picking.  As I was weighing and paying for my berries, the produce swindler struck again.  Milani had her eye on the yellow peppers, and swiped one before I could stop her.  I convinced Milani to hand it over long enough to weigh and pay for it, then she took hungry bites out of it like an apple. (She also does this at the grocery store; I'll be bagging corn and will turn around to find her happily chowing down on a green pepper.  I'm just glad that fresh produce is the target of her thievery.)

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This is the face I get when I ask her to smile.

After a picnic lunch, and some time running around by the stream, we packed up and headed home.  Both girls were fast asleep in their car seats within minutes.

Thursday: Downstairs/Girls Lights
Thursday morning I was scheduled to clean the downstairs and wash the girls lights, but instead opted to meet Grandma Andrea for strawberry picking round two.

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I think Milani may have been strawberry'd out, she only tasted a berry or two.  She wasn't quite as interested in picking berries, but the flag kept her busy parading up and down the row.

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And we solved Berkley's floppy hat problem.  Kind of.

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After another picnic lunch, Milani trotted back and forth from the parking lot to the stream, collecting fistfuls of rocks and plunking them into the babbling water.

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I love the way certain activities are instinctive, imprinted into kid DNA.  Every kid loves throwing rocks into water.  Every kid will continue throwing rocks into water until they run out of rocks or are forced, unhappily, to stop.  It never gets old.

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We watched as dark gray clouds drifted in, and headed back to the car when they started to release fat raindrops.

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And again, plumb tuckered out from all the flag waving and rock throwing, both girls were asleep in record time.

Saturday: Bathroom/Whites
As much as I cherish my days with my girls, it is the time when Jon is home from work, that we all get to hang out together as a family of four, that is most precious to me.  Recently Jon has been working on Saturdays, and even though I hate the separation, I know he is working hard to provide for his girls, and anxiously looking forward to time with his family. 

We took a trip to Hillside Farm to visit the "Bak-a Bak-a's" (Chickens) and share some ice cream.

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Jon and I are both animal lovers, and Milani inherited every ounce of our love of creatures.  She had a ball feeding hay to the cows, and feeling their sticky noses.  In fact, whenever we make the trip to Hillside, she is always more interested in the animals than the ice cream (That trait, however, she did not inherit from me.)

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Milani glows in the presence of "Daddy Doo", absolutely lights up in his company.

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Tuesday: Upstairs/Lights
From the very first night Milani came home from the hospital she has slept with me.  In the beginning she curled up like a little tree frog on my chest.  As she got bigger she earned a spot in between Jon and I, nestled in the crook of my arm.  She grew to sleep sideways and upside down and usually took up more room than either of us.  Once Berkley came along, my sliver or bed real estate shrank even further, with Milani in the middle usually plastered to my back and Berkley kept safe in the crook of my outside arm.

This sleeping arrangement, however, has gotten too tight, and we decided it was time to take down the crib (that neither girls has ever slept in) and put up our old full bed in the girls' room.  I turned the allen wrench, removing screws one by one, remembering the comedy act of putting it together.  I was eight months pregnant with Milani, reading the directions to Jon, who has no patience for reading directions himself.  It was only yesterday that I was anticipating the arrival of my first daughter.

Tuesday night, Milani and Jon slept in her bedroom on her new big girl bed.  I slept without her for the third night since the day she was born. (The other two nights I was away from her I was in the hospital with Berkley.)  It was so bittersweet.  For the first time in ages I could stretch out, and get comfortable, but I miss watching her sleep peacefully next to me while I'm up nursing Berkley.  I miss her groggy smile first thing in the morning, with her hair all ruffled and her gookie (binkie) in sideways.

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My Milani is rapidly growing into a big, independent, confident girl, right before my eyes.  Berkley will be sitting up within weeks, and crawling by the end of the summer.  I was reminded this week that my girls are only little for a brief moment, and I want to spend this precious short time I get with them wisely.  I want to make sure I soak up every moment, memorize every facial expression, sear into my soul as many blessed memories I can.  Before I know it they will both be sleeping in another room, then another house, eventually maybe another state.  And then, if it's even still important to me, I will have plenty of time to get back to my cleaning schedule

Me vs. Super-Mom

When I realize that it's been an entire month since I've written, and this long:


since I've shared photos, my initial, instinctual response is to start in on myself with the onslaught of could have's, should have's, and if you were a good mom you would have's.  I begin measuring myself up against other moms.  Actually it's not other moms that I compare myself to, it's just one other mom.  You know the one.  She's slim and stylish, with a nice tidy home.  She gardens, and crafts, and has playdates, and daily art projects lined up for her kids.  She reads, and writes tender, moving blog posts for every special occasion, and every non-occasion, and can make a killer lasagna.  She's Super-Mom.

Round 1.
Certainly it wouldn't have taken her over a month to share pictures from Easter.


Pictures of Milani rocking her first Easter egg hunt.  And by rocking I mean, finding one egg and then becoming obsessed with opening it and devouring chocolate.


Her diet for a majority of Easter Sunday consisted of chocolate, jelly beans, and bacon.  (I wonder if Super-Mom would let her kid consume as much sugar as Milani did?)

Round 2.
My lack of writing, and posting has nothing to do with lack of material, or even necessarily with lack of time I suppose.  I have had plenty of projects keeping me busy, but to be honest some afternoons I curl up and nap with my littles.  Some nights I go to bed at eight thirty with Milani.  I'm pretty sure Super-Mom doesn't sleep.  She stays up late into the night baking, or cleaning.  Heaven knows that when the weather is nice, I drop everything (leave laundry in a heap and dishes in the sink), and book it out of the house. 


We've been working in the yard, planting the garden.  Milani, entertaining herself with a random cat house thingy left in the yard by the neighbor. 


This thing kept her occupied for several hours, on several days.  (Would Super-Mom let her kid walk around with someone else's animal shelter thingy on her head? I wonder...)

Round 3.
When, in April, the thermometer hit eighty, we filled up the baby pool.

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Even though the sun was hot, the hose was cold, really cold.  But cold baby pool water is nothing to the kiddos.

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Except for Paisley, who wasn't thrilled about the cold water, and was perfectly content watching the action from her perch on dry land.

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Milani thought it was a hoot to run as fast as she could down the steep hill until she whiped out.  The harder she fell, the harder she laughed.  (Whatta ya think about that Super-M?)

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Round 4:
What I'm beating myself up the most about, though, is Milani's Birthday.  On May 9th, my doodle bug turned two.  I had planned to get a post up on her birthday displaying a collage of pictures that illustrate her changes and growth over the past year.  I was going to write a touching, heartfelt message to my eldest daughter on her birthday, making every word meaningful, every sentence perfect.  And I know Super-Mom has me beat on this one.  She would have had the post planned out and eloquently written weeks in advance.  She would have been poised to click "publish" at 12:01 on the day of her little's birthday.

Sometimes I get swept into thinking that an eloquently written birthday blog post will make Milani feel loved.  That I should be better about keeping up with her baby book (poor Berkley doesn't even have a baby book) so that she knows how she was loved.  Is loved.  The one thing I know, that I will make sure of, is that these girls WILL know they are loved, despite the fact that the baby books and birthday blogs are not my forte.  They may not have sentimental keepsakes, baby books filled to the brim with milestones and stories, but they will have memories, and relationships, and hugs and kisses and laughter.  

On Milani's birthday we met Ariana and the gang and the park for the afternoon.  The boys found the nearest mud puddle and went to town.  Honestly, I think nothing makes kids happier than playing in water, throw in some mud and it's a party!  If there was a mother who could give Super-Mom a serious run for her money, my sister would be the one to do it.  She has patience by the boat load, her home is always organized,  she runs half marathons and triathlons for kicks, and she's certainly not intimidated by a little mud.

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After a dip in the creek and a spare set of clothes, we all enjoyed a birthday ice cream treat in honor of our birthday girl.

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The Saturday after Milani's real birthday we had a little party for her.  I know Super-Mom throws a killer birthday party, with themes and activities, and the best favors.  In fact her toddler birthday parties are more cohesive than my wedding. Our party wasn't color coordinated with custom water bottle labels, and award winning cupcakes with homemade toppers.  It was hot dogs, and hamburgers grilled over charcoal.  Watermelon, and salads, and chips and chex mix, at the same park as her first birthday party together with close family and friends.  Milani had a ball, playing on the playground, swinging on the swings, and carting around her new red Radio Flyer wagon.  And the smile on her face is enough for me.

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And to make a fantastic party day even sweeter, our kind neighbors gave Milani a springy horse, and a kitchen set that their children had outgrown.

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The thing I need to remind myself, is that this Super-Mom I compare myself to is a phantom.  Sure, there are amazing mothers who do amazing things for their kids, who plan incredible parties, who keep spotless homes, and who find the time to run three miles every morning, but no ONE mom can do it all.  The mom who does everything, doesn't exist.  When I feel the urge to inflict wounds on my own ego, I need to take a step back and recognize the things I'm not so great at.  I need to show myself some kindness, and give myself permission to work on improving those areas, without any guilt.  And in fairness I need to recognize, even celebrate, the areas I am doing well.  

My girls will have this blog to look back on, packed full of pictures of them as babies, and toddlers, and kids.  Pictures of feet, and smiles.


They will remember afternoons in the yard, and at the park.

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They will know the way a blueberry muffin tastes, warm from the oven on a rainy afternoon, and how a hot dinner shared with family feeds the body and nourishes the soul.

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And I hope with all my heart that they will know, in their bones, and hearts, and souls, that they are loved. I may falter, and drop the ball. I make mistakes, and learn as I go. I often fall short of my own expectations, but I parent from the maternal instinct burning in my heart. My insurance policy is always the same, to fall back on loving them hard, and showing them that.

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I might fall short of "Super-Mom" but, oh, how these girls are loved!

We Make Plans, God Laughs {A Birth Story}

I never meant for four months to pass before putting her story into words.  I think I've been avoiding it, waiting to feel a sense of peace and acceptance regarding the choices I made in the hours leading up to her birth, afraid that if I wrote honestly about my feelings surrounding my labor with Berkley, that she would read this years from now and mistake any disappointment toward my decisions and the process, as disappointment in her.  I was hoping I would be able to write about how my whole labor was filled with the same joy and love and beauty that were indeed so very present and overwhelming the moment I laid eyes on my sweet girl, because she is no less than perfect, she is everything I could have dreamed and more.  Perhaps writing honestly about my experience is in fact the only way I will come to accept it and release any regrets.

My due date was December 20 (according to the midwife) or December 18 (according to my OBGYN).  At my forty week appointment the doctor checked me.  I was dilated three centimeters.  I knew from experience that this meant nothing.  I could have a baby the next day or two weeks down the road.  My doctor offered to schedule an induction for the day after Christmas, but he knew my answer before I spoke the words, "I want to let the baby come on his/her own time.  I want to go into labor naturally and let my body do what it is designed to do."  So he told me that I would have to have a non-stress test and an ultrasound at forty-one weeks, and if the baby were still doing well I would be allowed to go to forty-two weeks, no longer.  So I scheduled my non-stress test and ultrasound for the day after Christmas.

On December 26, I dropped off my sweet Milani with her Grandma Andrea, knowing that there was a possibility that they could keep me at the hospital, that my girl would be a big sister before I saw her next.  Somewhere deep down perhaps I knew.  And it was so bittersweet to leave her, to know she might be spending her first night away from me, to know that things could be so very different when we would reunite.

I met Jon at the hospital and reported to our non-stress test.  I sat in the big recliner, with the monitors on my round belly and the clicker in my hand, ready to push the button with every kick and tumble.  My doctor was on call that day and stopped by to check on us.  "You know, we could just take you right upstairs and start the pitocin, just give me the word."  Jon was all for it.  Not only was he all for it, since we still hadn't agreed on a boy name (Jon had his favorite and I had mine) he actually told me that if I agreed to just go up get induced, he would give up all rights to any input on our boy name.  THIS WAS HUGE!  After forty-one weeks of debating and bickering and stressing out over boy names, all I had to do to get my boy name without any further resistance was agree to the induction.  But I didn't want it to go down that way, so I waited patiently in my recliner for the babykins to move.

My little one had different plans, and she only moved once in twenty minutes.  We failed our non-stress test.  This was typical though, I knew that this little one usually slept hard for a while, then would wake up and beat the crap out of my uterus for two hours straight.  Now any other day they would have fed me some orange juice and kept me hooked up for another twenty minutes, until the baby was out of the sleep cycle, but they were booked solid that day so I had to give up my chair and report to the ultrasound.

As I got ready for the ultrasound, the technician made small talk.  "You're forty-one weeks, why is it that you're not being induced?"  I tried to explain again how I wanted to trust my body to deliver a healthy baby when the time was right.  That when my cervix was ready and the baby was ready, a natural labor would be easiest on my body and the little one.  As she swirled the ultrasound wand over my belly, slimy with gel, she continued "You know, your doctor is the only one in the group who will even LET women go past forty-one weeks.  Every other doctor would make you induce now.  A long time ago they all used to go to forty-two weeks before inducing, but they've all decided to switch to forty-one, I guess they all felt that waiting that extra week was too big a risk."  She had my attention.  Even though I knew better, I asked for more details.  "Well, I don't want to scare you, but things can happen past forty-one weeks, I guess most doctors aren't comfortable with the risks.  I won't say any more than that." 

She told us that the baby looked healthy and that my fluid levels were good, but also that the fluid looked cloudy which could be a result of either the vernix wearing off or the presence of meconium, both signaling that the baby was ready.  I was sufficiently freaked out and totally on the fence about what to do.  I desperately wanted to trust my body and to experience an intervention free labor, but I didn't want to but the baby in harms way.  Then I made the biggest mistake.  I asked her what she would do if she were in my position.   Without hesitation, "I would be induced! Let me ask you this, knowing that your baby is healthy today, could you live with the decision to wait if something happened before you delivered?"  The room spun, and I lost my breath.  Her words fell like sand bags on my heart.  Heavy.  Grim.  The technician offered a suggestion, "What if I send you up to L&D for the doctor to check you.  That way if you're dilated further and it would be an easy induction you would know, but if you're not dilated further, you could go home and wait it out?" 

So we checked into labor and delivery, and I changed into a hospital gown, shoved all my clothes into a plastic baggie labeled "patient belongings", and slid under the crisp sheets of a hospital bed.  I was again hooked up to monitors, and was kept company by the steady thumping of my little one's heartbeat.  The baby was moving enough now to make the lines on the printout jump and wiggle.  When the doctor came in, I told him about how the ultrasound technician had terrified me with ideas of a still-birth at forty-two weeks.  He checked my cervix.  Still three centimeters.  And he offered me his input. "Do I think something will happen if you go home, probably not.  Do I know nothing will happen if you stay and get induced, absolutely.  I know you want a natural labor so let me offer you this, most women past forty weeks will start contracting and go into labor on their own once their water has broken.  What if we break your water, and you can walk the halls to help along some contractions and if all goes well hopefully we can have a nice, peaceful, pitocin free birth, today."

So I weighed the scenarios in my head.  1.) I could stay and potentially have an intervention free delivery, with my doctor who I know and like, and who knows me and what I want.  I could avoid the whole "could you live with yourself if you go home and your baby dies" guilt.  2.) I could go home, and trust my initial instinct, and go into labor on my own.  3.) I could go home, and trust my initial instinct, and not go into labor naturally before forty-two weeks and wind up being induced anyway, but with whichever doctor happened to be on call, whom I might not like. Or 4.) I could go home and have that dreaded something happen to the baby

So I took the bait, and signed on the dotted line.  I remember texting my sister, a strong mama who only five months prior delivered her healthy ten pound daughter two and a half weeks after her due date, in her home with a midwife, to let her know I was being admitted.  I imagined how disappointed she would be in me, how she would think that I talk a good "natural childbirth" game but that I had buckled under the pressure and fumbled the ball inches from the goal line.  How she might even think I'm a big phony hypocrite.  At least that was what I was thinking about myself.

My nurse, Debby, who was loud and bubbly and a little bit out there, reassured me repeatedly that she was the best nurse on the floor at putting in IV lines, and that my veins looked awesome.  Four needle pricks later, she slunk to the nurses station to recruit help.  It took two nurses, a whole lot of needle wiggling, IV line untangling and valve checking to get me hooked up.

It was around 4:30 pm when the doctor arrived and broke my water, and set me free to walk the halls, wheeling along my monitor.  Jon and I did laps, literally covering miles of labor and delivery hallways.  I think the nurses were amused, but we walked, and chattered and laughed while mild contractions rolled in and out.  Initially the contractions came roughly ten minutes apart, but nothing too uncomfortable, and slowly they began to die down.  I was panicking on the inside, keeping close watch of the clock, fearing, knowing that if my contractions didn't pick up the pace I'd be pumped full of pitocin.

We took breaks here and there, to rest my back, and so they could hook me back up to the monitors and check on the little one.  We watched Friends on the TV while the nurse repositioned the heart rate monitor that kept slipping down.  After fifteen minutes of monitoring the nurse came back with a glass of orange juice.  "Doctor isn't seeing as many movements as he'd like so we're going to keep you on the monitor a little longer and see if the baby will start moving a little more."  The orange juice did the trick, they could hear the kicks and flips all the way at the nurse's station. 

Ariana came to keep us company around 9:00 pm.  She kindly reassured me that I had made the best decision I could have with the information I had.  She reminded me that if I had gone home, I would have stressed and worried each and every time I couldn't feel the baby.  I never would have relaxed.  I knew she was right.  The doctor came in to check my progress around 10:00 pm.  I was only four centimeters and contractions were fizzling out.  I braced myself, I knew what was coming.  The doctor suggested that I seriously consider pitocin.  With each hour that passed since they ruptured my membranes my risk of infection increased.  I was defeated.  I gave him the go ahead.  I kept reminding anyone who would listen that I could have been at home, in my bed.  I should have been home in my bed.

And so began a long long sleepless night with pitocin dripping in my IV, and contractions getting stronger and more painful.  Jon and I were both exhausted, trying to get rest, trying to find comfort in the dark hospital room.  I kept wondering aloud how Milani was doing.  Kept saying that I missed my girl.  I missed her fiercely.  The nurse told me that there were a series of C-sections coming up which would occupy both doctors for a while.  She kept telling me that since I had delivered Milani in five hours she was worried I would go quickly once I started progressing.  She told me that if I felt any pressure, even felt so much as the urge to fart (honestly her words), that I was to let her know.  The doctor checked me before going into surgery.  I was only five centimeters.  It was maybe 2:00 am.

Around 3:30 am the trembles kicked in, followed shortly by the upset stomach.  I had known it was coming.  I warned the nurse at the beginning of her shift that I was a "puker".  She didn't mind.  Jon and I dozed between contractions.  I knew I wasn't changing positions as much as I should have been.  Maybe that's why when they checked me again at 5:00 am I was only six and a half centimeters, and in serious amounts of discomfort.  And if that weren't enough, my contractions were weakening and slowing, but the pain was intensifying.  My lower back was screaming electric with back labor.  My body was resisting everything.  I was losing my resolve, quickly.

I felt like I had hit a brick wall, emotionally and physically drained.  Exhausted in every cell of my body.  I wanted something for the pain.  If it had taken me twelve hours to dilate from three to six centimeters, simple math told me I could be in labor for another twelve hours.  I couldn't keep going like this for another twelve hours.  I felt again like a sell-out.  A weakling.  How could I have delivered Milani without an epidural, and here I was begging Jon to tell me it was OK if I asked for one.  Begging him to tell me I wasn't weak, and pathetic.  Begging the nurse to promise me that an epidural wouldn't stop my progress and force me to have a C-section.  I wanted to birth this baby the way I had Milani.  I wanted him/her to come down my birth canal.  I wanted to push.  The nurse made no guarantees but told me that if I had only been two centimeters she might caution me about an epidural slowing my progress, but at seven centimeters she didn't think it would be a problem.

Again I chose what I swore I never wanted.  I agreed to let the nurse call the anesthesiologist.  She told me he was tied up and it would be a while, so she offered me something to take the edge off until he arrived.  I don't even remember the name of the drug, but I figured what's one more at this point?  She told me it wouldn't take the pain away, but would help me relax.  She was right.  It still hurt like hell, but I was too high to care.  I was a zombie.  But I was relaxed, and resting.  Like a puddle on the bed.

At 7:00 am the nurses changed shifts, and in walked my new nurse, and even in my loopy state I knew exactly who she was.  It was Dorothy, sweet Dorothy who was my L&D nurse when I had Milani,  Sweet Dorothy who I had loved and had always wanted to thank, but whose name I had forgotten after Milani was born.  Jon and I babbled like sleep deprived, drugged idiots telling her how much we had loved her, how we had forgotten her name, how much had we wanted to thank her for being with us through Milani's birth.  She accepted our crazy talk graciously.  She's good like that.

They checked me again when the anesthesiologist arrived a little after 7:30, I was eight centimeters.  I hunched forward on the edge of the bed like I had seen so many do on A Baby Story.  I felt the pinch, and the weirdness as he fed the line between my vertibrae, and then as I rested, slowly, the pain began to lift.  Relief.  Sweet relief.  I could breathe.  I could relax.  And I was a vision of everything I never wanted for my labor.  Seventeen hours of contractions, an oxygen mask on my face, a catheter to empty my bladder, high as a kite and motionless from the waist down with a tube feeding anesthesia into my spine, and another delivering pitocin into my bloodstream.

Ariana stopped in before her first patents, she said she could only stay an hour.  I could see the sympathy in her eyes, I'm sure I was a sight to behold.  She offered to stay with me and give Jon a break.  Dorothy told me to let her know when I felt pressure.  With the next contraction or so I asked her if it was at all possible I felt pressure already.  Ariana encouraged Jon to go grab a bite to eat, I hinted that I didn't think Jon would have the time.  Dorothy checked me, and smiled "Yep, let's get set up, you're fully dilated"

With Ariana on one side and Jon on the other I pushed through maybe six or seven contractions.  I remember feeling the baby crown.  The doctor told me that the baby was right there, that if he were to cut an episiotomy the baby would slip right out, but he wanted me to push again.  I pushed through one more contraction and the baby was out. "It's a girl!" I thought I heard the doctor say.  I remember turning to Ariana "Did he just say it's a girl?"  She grinned and nodded.  At 8:50 am we met our little girl Berkley Reese.

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Now here is where I insist that all I truly cared about was that the baby would be healthy, but that I honestly with my whole being believed it would be a boy.  I truly and honestly didn't care whether it was a boy or a girl.  If we had a boy we would have one of each, and Jon would have a son.  If it were a girl, Milani would get a sister, and although they might fight like cats and dogs for the first two decades of their lives, hopefully they would get to experience the incredible bond and level of friendship that I am so grateful to share with my sister.  When they told me it was a girl, I secretly rejoiced.  I am so happy that my girls will have each other.  I believe that to have a sister is one of the biggest blessings in the world.  It was meant to be this way.   Maybe we'll just need to try for a boy with number three, I wonder if my rights to the boy name transfer...

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Jon didn't want to cut the cord so Ariana did, and the doctor handed me my sweet girl.  She looked almost exactly like Milani did on her birth day.  She was so perfect, so beautiful.  I clutched her closely, have her kisses.  I saw Jon looking over my shoulder with tears in the corners of his eyes.  Ariana snapped pictures.  Dorothy took her to weigh and measure her, 8lb 8oz, 20 1/2 inches long.  Only one ounce and half an inch different from Milani, and the same dark hair, but her eyes were a deep, rich, navy blue.  And then I nursed her, and she latched on perfectly, and nursed beautifully, and I never wanted to give her up.  Dorothy waited patiently, as I took my time feeding my girl, and when Berkley finished Dorothy gave her her first bath.

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After my blood pressure stabilized, and my legs regained some feeling, my girl and I were wheeled to our Mom and Baby room where my Milani girl, my beautiful big sister Milani girl, waited to meet her perfect baby sister.  Mostly she just wanted me, but she would grow to love her Berkley sister.  And she looked so big and grown up overnight.  She played with the hospital phone, and went for walks to play with the wagons by the nursery, and I was so so happy to see my first girl again.  I had missed her terribly and knew we'd have another night apart.  I spent the rest of our hospital stay snuggled with my new love, nursing painlessly, counting the minutes until we were set free to go home and become a family of four.

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Since that blessed day I have played the If Only game endlessly.  If only I had been stronger, perhaps I could have delivered without the epidural, and I wouldn't feel like such a weakling, or maybe the epidural helped my body relax enough to allow the contractions to make progress.  Maybe, had I been stubborn, progression would have slowed further, and I would have been forced into a C-section.  If only I hadn't let that ultrasound technician scare me out of following my instincts, perhaps I would have had a quick and easy natural birth once my cervix was ready.  Or maybe God knew better than I the way that scenario would have played out.  Maybe He knew that those ugly, paralyzing words were exactly what I needed to hear to get me agree to stay and be induced.  I shudder to think that He knew it had to be this way or I wouldn't be holding her, sleeping, in my arms as I type.

I have wasted too much time criticizing in my choices, and the way the cards fell throughout my labor.  I'm learning that in life you can't go to the DVD menu and play the alternate ending, you don't get to read the other options from the u-choose book.  All I can do is thank God that I was given this healthy, beautiful, absolutely perfect daughter, and accept that the choices I made were the best I could have given the circumstances, and that it unfolded exactly the way it was meant to.  Not the way I had planned, but we make plans and God laughs.

I Love You my Sweet Berkley Reese!

Cause for Celebration

Just like a photo album holds snapshots representing cherished, happy moments, smiling faces, love and laughter, I started this blog so that my family, especially my girls, can someday look back at the way we spent our days.  I wanted it to be a true representation, and honest depiction of our lives, and at the same time I wanted it to be filled with the positive, the beauty, the sweet delicate moments that sum together to equal an amazing life.  So it gave me incentive to seek out the beauty hidden in the mundane, and be present for the tender moments tucked amidst the routine.  It encouraged me to look for the silver lining so that I can write about it, and share it.  It fueled me to find ways to transform ordinary afternoons into extraordinary ones for my girls.  None of these things comes naturally to me, so this all required a real, focused, conscious effort.  A resolution to stay true to the cause, because it is a worthy one, filling the blank pages of my girls' stories with wonder and memories and an optimistic outlook.

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This season, where the grey and cold stretch on indefinitely between the holidays and the first tender buddings of spring, is usually difficult for me.  I almost always find myself sinking into a weepy depression, where cabin fever sets in stirring up anxiety.  So I've been waiting, watching closely for those first inklings of sadness to filter in.  Bracing myself for the storm that inevitably comes, and subsequently passes with the first warm days of spring. 

But it's not coming.  Instead, I'm genuinely happy.  I'm noticing that all of those things that felt somewhat forced and unnatural at the beginning of this blog journey seem to be slowly rewiring my neuro-pathways.  The beauty is starting to find me, tender moments seem more frequent and abundant, and silver linings are becoming more obvious.  Sure, it still requires a positive outlook, and a desire to build and cultivate a positive existence, but the effort feels lighter.  I feel like I'm in a place of comfortable contentment, and where reasons to celebrate, both big and small, just keep coming along one after another.

We've celebrated...


...my Nonno's ninetieth birthday.  We gathered with family to commemorate nine decades and a legacy; three children, fifteen grandchildren, five great grandchildren. 

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He still asks Jon when they're going to hit the course for eighteen holes.  He still wants to sit in the bleachers of Beaver stadium to watch the Nittney Lions cross the goal line for six.

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He may already have ninety years tucked under his belt, but it's not about the years in one's life, it's about the life in one's years and he's still got it!


...the first of what are now frequent and contagious toothless grins.  It's impossible for me to witness one of these smiles without a grin on my own face that makes my cheeks ache.

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She smiles with her whole face, and her cheeks squish her deep clear blue eyes into sweet shining half moons.

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...Jon's thirtieth birthday.  His family threw a surprise party.  We had to tell him about the surprise party to get him to it, which didn't in fact surprise me because it's nearly impossible to surprise Jon. 

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...Berkley's two month milestone

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...our first playground outing this year.

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I'm craving that first really warm spring afternoon when I can fling open every window and let that delicious spring freshness, that scent of warm wet soil mingling with unfurling buds and  new grass, permeate every nook and cranny of my home.  I have an inkling it's right around the corner.

Ringing in the Newness

My heart is full as I find myself at the dawn of a new year, cradling in my arms a brand new life, while my sweet Lulu breathes steadily, slow heavy breaths, napping next to me.  It wasn't so long ago that I would have rung in the new year at a party, wearing sparkly heels and toasting champagne, and that side of me isn't long lost, but this year I watched the clock strike midnight in the quiet darkness of my bedroom, nursing a newborn, and couldn't have been more content.

In some ways my life looks nothing like I imagined it would, I'm not sure I ever could have pictured myself the mother of two gorgeous sweet little girls, and yet it still feels perfect, it was meant to be.  Sometimes I have to remind myself that I am a mother, and that Milani, and now little Berkley, are actually my daughters not just these amazing littles I hang out with.  And every time I have this crazy revelation, it has the same enlightening, awe inspiring affect on me.  Holy crap...I'm actually a mom!  I usually don't feel like a mom, at least not the way I imagined motherhood might feel, and I wonder if I'll always notice this curious little inconsistency.  Regardless, I've never been more certain that this is, at least for now, one of the reasons I was put on this earth.  I am mom, hear me roar!

Little Berkley's birth story will be written, hopefully before we celebrate her first birthday, but for now I am just enjoying the settling, the nestling back down into the comforting rhythm of our lives as a new family of four.  I know it will take some time to really feel rooted and sturdy in our new roles, but we get a little closer to normalcy every day.  We've already overcome the bogus "Baby lost too much weight, start supplementing with formula" hurdle, and the "She hasn't pooped in three days" obstacle, and the fog of the first of many sleepless nights with a newborn is lifting ever so slightly.  Every day I get a little better at balancing the needs of both my girls, which often times means literally balancing both my girls, one in each arm.  And while I'm certain of the strength and depth of my love for both of them, I sometimes feel like I need another me in order for them each to adequately feel my constant love.  Another pair of arms to wrap each girl in close to me, to rock both of my girls tightly until their bodies wilt and their breaths slow into slumber. Another me so i can nurse one and cuddle the other, so I can shower them both with kisses.  It's so hard to try to be everything to each of my girls all the time, near impossible.  Before we know it though, we'll find that we've stumbled upon our groove somewhere along the way without even realizing it; everything will fall into its place.

All this change makes it seem as though Christmas was a lifetime ago, but I don't want it to get passed by completely.  Santa was good to Milani, bringing her jumbo Legos, a new baby doll, some books, and a potty chair she is strangely attached to.  I'm glad Santa didn't bring her more because she gave up on opening presents after her fourth gift.

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And this little angel, reminds me of her sister in so many ways.

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So many of her facial expressions and noises take me right back to when Milani was a newborn. Her "baby grinch" face, her fake little impatient cough when she wants milk faster than I can give it to her, her stretchy face.  At the same time she is so unique, with her own little endearing quirks.  Her "Oh" face, her little cat shaped eyes, and the little raspy hum that accompanies her sleepy breaths. 

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I used to tell people that Milani was laid back, but little Berkley has her beat.  She is so chill, always.  I can put her down to help Milani and she doesn't make a peep, Milani never wanted to be put down ever and she let you know it!  Berkley can make it through an outfit or diaper change without getting spitting mad and turning purple like her sister used to.  And I may be jinxing myself now but she doesn't have a fussy time like Milani did every evening.  She is really making the transition from mother of one to mother of two pretty easy on me (knock on wood).

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And big sister is making me so proud!  She has been so sweet and patient this week, so accepting of her new little sister.  She can say Berkley, it comes out "Burkeee"She hops on a chair to help me change diapers and shows great concern anytime Berkley is upset.  And she keeps us and herself entertained.

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And although I hear that this only ever happens in newborn/toddler fairytale land, I have two sleeping beauties napping at the same time.  My pillow is calling my name.

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Christmastastic Fabulousness

Even though I am regularly comforted by family and friends with the reminder that Milani is too young know any different if this Christmas isn't perfect; if I spend more time with my feet up than spreading holiday cheer; if the baby conveniently decides that Christmas Eve or Christmas Day seems like the perfect day to make his/her grand entrance and I'm stuck in the hospital forcing us to celebrate our Christmas a week late, I still don't want this Christmas to be a complete dud for my girl.  Because sitting on the sidelines monitoring every sensation below my shoulders for any indication of impending labor is about as eventful as watching paint dry.  The baby's going to come when the baby's going to come, and there's no good reason why I can't be cultivating holiday traditions and etching new Christmas memories with my Lulu in the meantime.  So, I've been trying to make the conscious shift from focusing on only seven more days until my due date and when is baby going to come?, to embracing and celebrating the season we're in.

In previous years my holiday cards would've hit the post office the week after Thanksgiving, at some point every flat surface in my kitchen and dining room would've been covered with cookies destined for goodie baskets or a cookie swap, and I would have been organizing the house and planning a menu preparing to host our family for Christmas dinner.  I am accepting the reality that our experience of the season this year will feel a little different, but will be no less rich with laughter and love and time spent together as a family.

It is so fun to watch Milani's reactions to holiday traditions that are so new and foreign to her; to watch her laugh and run and stomp her little feet in excitement when Jon brought our Christmas tree into the house; to see her wonder grow with each ornament she pulled out of the box; to watch her figure out how the ornaments get hung on branches; and to see her face glow when we plugged in the lights.  There is magic in this season and it can be seen so clearly and purely reflected in the eyes of our littles.







This week Milani and I pulled out of the attic the train set that my family used to put around our tree when I was young.


I'm not sure how I managed to inherit this train, and hadn't gotten it out any previous Christmas', but if I'm to infuse our days with more holiday wonder this would be a perfect starting point.  Milani skittered around me examining the passenger cars and engine as I pieced the track together, and gawked excitedly as I turned the power dial instructing her to "Watch, watch, watch...check out what's going to happen when I turn the dial!".  And nothing happened.  And I was so bummed.  And Milani lost interest, and went on to playing with a stuffed animal.


After some Googling and troubleshooting, and a quick scrub down of the track rails with a brillo, I managed to convince Milani to give the "Choo Choo" a second chance and her gaping mouth and shrill squeal made the whole project worthwhile.  We watched it go in around and around in circles, Milani insisting on being held the whole time it was running, simultaneously thrilled and terrified that it could move by itself.

Last night Jon went to bed early and I found myself in a quiet house, lit dimly by the lights on the tree and cast in a golden glow from a lone candle.


I was taken aback by the sense of peace that blanketed me as I sat at the dining room table writing out Christmas cards by candle light, with the melodies of Christmas carols drifting faintly from the kitchen radio.

This evening Milani and I whipped up our first batch of holiday cookies, Peanut Butter Blossoms.  My girl climbed up onto the chair next to me and stirred her bowl full of Hershey's Kisses, whipping up her own imaginary batch of treats.

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And because, at our house, helping to bake the cookies entitles you to a sampling of the ingredients and cookie dough, she devoured no less than nine kisses, licked the peanut butter spoon, and ate a spatula full of dough.

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She's no stranger to this rule; the whole time I was mixing up the ingredients she pointed anxiously at the spatula repeating "poppy...poppy" - her word for lolli-pop - be still my beating heart, this girl can't get any cuter.  She may not have had any appetite left for dinner, and she may have bounced off the walls like a maniac right up until bedtime, but my girl and I had a blast baking side by side and I wouldn't trade it for anything.

I still have errands to run, projects to finish, and presents to wrap, and depending on the moment I oscillate between feeling stressed and overwhelmed, and feeling eerily calm.  But I'm becoming more comfortable with knowing that I will accomplish what I can before my little sweetie's arrival, and postpone the things I can't, and it will be a Christmas to remember regardless how it unfolds.

The Day She Made Me a Mama {A Birth Story}

I wish I'd thought to take the time to record in words every blessed detail of every moment of that day much sooner, because while the magic and wonder and gratitude I feel are as poignant as ever, the little intricacies have faded over the past eighteen months.  So now, a year and a half later, I'm going to root around in my memory, and jog loose and dust off every beautiful detail I can, and attempt to find the words that might just begin to capture the emotion and experience of the day she made me a mama.

I can remember an evening about a month before my due date; I was at the restaurant, and I grabbed a new carton of half and half out of the cooler.  As I glanced at the expiration date, I felt my heart catch in my throat, and couldn't stifle a nervous laugh.  The date read May 11, and the only thought that raced through my head, making the floor seem to tilt dangerously to one side and the lights dim for a moment, was that I would become a mother before the half and half would expire.

The days flew past, and my due date approached rapidly.  I began each morning wondering whether today would be the day.  I paid close attention to every Braxton-Hicks contraction, and every uncomfortable twinge, and every unfamiliar pang.  I struggled to distinguish between normal third trimester aches and pains, and crampiness, and contractions.  When my due date arrived without any signs of labor, one of the other doctors in my Obstetrician's practice scheduled me for an induction the following Sunday, at forty-one weeks, May 9th, Mother's Day, at seven a.m.

I desperately wanted our little one to come on her terms, I wanted to trust my body to do what women's bodies have accomplished without synthetic hormones for most of humanity, nothing about an induction resonated with my soul.  I tried to reassure myself that labor would come on it's own before Sunday, and tried to encourage my body to go along with my plan.  I went for long walks up steep hills, I ate pineapple, and lord knows every single bone jarring ride I took in Jon's truck should have been bumpy enough to catapult me directly into active labor.

I remember that Friday, May 7th, was a gorgeous, warm, sunny day.  The most beautiful day we'd seen so far that spring.  Jon called me from work to let me know that according to his father "It looked like a perfect day to have a baby."  I wholeheartedly agreed, apparently our little sweetie didn't.  Later that afternoon I called my OB and asked him if I absolutely had to be induced at forty-one weeks, or if I could wait longer, give our peanut the time she needed.  He reassured me that I could forgo the induction as long as I came in to the hospital on Saturday morning for a Non-Stress Test and an Ultrasound to ensure that the baby wasn't in any distress. 

First thing Saturday morning, Jon and I went in for our routine tests and passed with flying colors.  We canceled the induction, and I felt like I had been let off the hook, like a weight had been taken off my chest and I finally had room to breathe.  The peace of mind lasted all of what felt like fifteen seconds, because by that evening I had reason to believe that I might be slooowly leaking amniotic fluid.  I waited until morning to call the physician on call, and talked to the doctor who had initially scheduled my induction.  He told me to come in immediately.

In my heart I knew this was it.  I had Jon bring my bags.  I was anxious, and nervous, emotional, and terrified and excited.  Part of me wanted to dig in my heels, run back in the house and lock the doors, scream "Waaaaiittt!! I'm not ready yet!"  But ready or not, I went to the hospital and they tested for amniotic fluid, and the doctor looked up at me from his little glass microscope slide and said "It's fluid alright, let's get her admitted and get her started on pitocin.  See, you canceled your induction and you're here anyway."  And this is where it all becomes a little fuzzy.

I'm not sure how I walked from triage to my L&D room, I'm not convinced that I didn't in fact float there, or perhaps no one wants to tell me I actually passed out cold and had to be carried there.  Once I was nestled in my bed in the room where I would deliver our baby girl, the nurse asked me if I was feeling alright because my blood pressure dropped, and my coloring looked a little pale.  I confessed that I was just the tiniest bit terrified.  I'm not sure what had me more nervous, the anticipation of the pain, or the fact that my life was about to be turned upside down in a way I couldn't fathom.  We made the excited phone calls and sent out the mass texts letting our friends and family know that we were at the hospital and today would be the day.

They started pitocin at two p.m. and the contractions came immediately.  Initially they were just like bad period cramps, and Jon would look at the printout dangling from one of the machines to see how big a mountain that contraction had been.  I remember that they broke my water.  The nurse asked me to rate my pain and I'm pretty sure I said it was a five, little did I know.
At some point my sister arrived, and brought her laptop.  I remember her setting it up and connecting it to the internet, giving it to me to pass the time.  I remember starting at it blankly, completely unable to comprehend what I could possibly be doing with the computer.  I also remember Jon and Ariana trying to make something happen with music, to fix something with the computer, something wasn't working, that's all I can recall about that fiasco.  I remember that I brought Norah Jones, and Diana Krall, and Billy Holiday CDs, I only recall hearing Norah Jones, barely.

The contractions became stronger, longer, and more painful.  The mountains on the printout were much larger, with jagged pointed plateaus, and the breaks between them weren't even remotely long enough.  I remember sitting on a birthing ball for a while, and standing along side the bed figuring gravity must be able to help things along.

At one point the I.V. tube administering the pitocin accidentally got a kink in it, causing the machine shreak.  The nurse wasn't in the room so we took matters into our own hands and pushed a button or two until it got quiet.  Whatever we did accidentally stopped the flow of pitocin, and for those few blessed minutes before the nurse came in and realized what had happened, I got the most amazing, and much needed, break from the constant onslaught of contractions.  I remember getting sick to my stomach more than a handful of times.  I remember that when the clock said five p.m. they checked my progress and I was five c.m.  The nurse asked me to rate my pain again, and I told her I wanted to revise my previous assessment to a two, and that now it was a six, little did I know.

Jon got hungry, and went to Cosmo's for a cheesesteak.  It felt like he was gone for ten minutes, my sister tells me he was gone quite a bit longer than that.  I'm sure he relished the much needed break from the constant onslaught of contractions too.

I remember changing positions to kneel tall on the bed, facing the elevated head of the bed, resting my upper body on the top of the mattress.  I remember that position being so so painful, especially in my back, and my nurse encouraging me to hold out for a couple more contractions because the change in position would help the baby move down.  I remember Ariana putting pressure on my lower back, and showing Jon how to do the same.

Jon was so encouraging and supportive, like a cheerleader, talking me through every contraction, telling me how amazing I was doing, reminding me to breathe, assuring me that the contraction was almost over.  He would keep an eye on the printout and alert me the minute the mountain appeared to be starting it's descent.  I remember at a certain point between contractions, trying to tell Jon politely that although he was trying his hardest to be super helpful, I couldn't handle trying to comprehend the words coming from his mouth and deal with the pain of a contraction at the same time.  The next contraction he started cheering me on again, I'm pretty sure I snarled, and the nurse leaned in to him and said "Jon, honey, I think it would be best if you stopped talking during contractions."  I think his feelings were hurt.

The contractions got even longer, and stronger, and much more painful.  I remember pleading that I just wanted a break and whimpering to Ariana that I couldn't do this, and her telling me sternly that I absolutely could.  The nurse encouraged me to try to empty my bladder, she said something like "A full bladder is a closed door" whatever that meansAt that point, the only thing worse than a contraction, was peeing, and throwing up, and contracting at the same time.  She checked my progress again, nine c.m.  She had me rate my pain and if this wasn't a nine and a half I might just die before I delivered.  She had me lay in bed on my left side, and told me to let her know when I felt the need to push.

It seemed like the blink of an eye, like only three contractions had passed, and I was telling her that I had to push.  She checked me and confirmed that I was ten c.m.  It was about seven p.m. and her shift was ending.  She stayed with me a little longer but ended up having to leave before I delivered, and I am so upset to confess that I don't remember my her name, because I LOVED her.  I still wish I could write her a thank you card for her kindness and sweetness and support.  She left me in the hands of another sweet nurse who helped through the rest of the delivery.

Jon held my left leg, I don't remember who held my right.  With each contraction I pushed as hard as I could.  In between each contraction I pleaded with my little one, telling her that she just had to come out right now.  It felt like I only pushed through three or four contractions but Jon tells me it was more than that.  Thanks to the reflection in the TV opposite my bed, I witnessed my little one as she emerged, all eight pounds, seven ounces of her.

Since my amniotic fluid had been leaking, they had to examine her before giving her to me, and I remember Jon being next to the little bassinet with the doctor examining her.  I was glad he was with her, and I couldn't wait to hold her.  They finally passed her to me and I couldn't hold back tears, she was so perfect, so beautiful.  She had dark hair like her dad, and dark brown eyes that looked eggplant purple from certain angles.  I don't remember her crying much, Jon and I both made up for that.  It was impossible to take my eyes off her, and I feel like she really never took her eyes off us.


I will never forget nursing her for the first time, and that she latched on immediately and would have nursed forever.  It was surreal to think that she had grown inside me, that she came out whole and complete and perfect with hair and fingernails and personality.  I remember thinking that she definitely looked like a girl, that there was no way anyone could mistake this newborn beauty for a boy.  The nurse fashioned a hat with a bow.


My heart ached when she cried through her first bath, and I felt the beginnings of a fierce maternal instinct kick in; wanting wildly to rescue her and make everything ok for her.


I was too shaky to walk to the Mom and Baby room so I cradled her proudly as they wheeled us over, and we had a few sacred moments alone, just the two of us, while Jon went to find our visitors.  We were put in a corner room with wrap around windows that displayed a panoramic view of the Scranton skyline.  Ariana brought me a hoagie and girl scout cookies; food never tasted so good.  It was around ten thirty when everyone left, and then it was just me, Jon, and our brand new little angel.


I remember being very emotional the day we were discharged, feeling like if I could just stay in that room forever the timer would never start, that she would stay new and tiny forever.  I could never have known how much joy watching her learn and grow would bring.  I'm still being amazed daily by the way every new stage brings its own beauty and wonder.  She was perfect on that Mother's Day she was first laid in my arms, and she's still perfect today as she sounds out new words and dances to music, and one is not better than the other, just different, both magical.

I can reflect so fondly and emotionally on the day she made me a mama, and look forward to watching her life unfold, because her story isn't over it's still being written and I am so lucky, blessed beyond words, to be the one holding her hand along her journey.

Letting Go and Going With the Flow

Well hello there November!  I feel like I say something along these lines every time I write, but seriously, I can't keep up!  The days are speeding by faster and faster and I honestly can't believe we are entering a new month!  Not to mention that Ride Aid and Redners already have their Christmas isles set up, the mall is decorated with lights and trees, and I have already seen a poster advertising Toys for Tots.

The holidays are rapidly approaching in all their splendor and glory, and this year they are ushering with them countless reasons for our family to celebrate.  We have so many reasons to be grateful, and have so many blessings entering our lives, yet I have to admit that I am becoming overwhelmed with everything that life is handing me right now.  If the holidays alone weren't hectic enough, we are expecting our sweet little one in December.  And I'm off from work which allows me to spend so much more time with Jon and Milani, and to work furiously to turn my passion into a career, but is also straining our finances just in time for Christmas.  On top of this, Jon and I stumbled upon an investment opportunity that was too good to pass up which will be demanding hours of our time and amounts money that we simply don't have to begin with.  Jon reminds me that if we persevere through this now, it will be worth it in the long run, but I am more than just a little stressed out over it all.

I wish that I naturally faced obstacles with a positive outlook, automatically seeking out the lesson to be learned, welcoming the invitation for growth and enjoying the opportunity to rise up and overcome.  I wish I were one of those people who inherently sees the silver lining, who's entire world is rose colored, and who is happy to surrender and just go with the flow.  Instead I am furiously desperate to have a firm grasp of what my future holds, I worry away hours of my life (usually at 2:45 am) fussing over what might happen, how things will probably go wrong, and where I'll end up.  And I am completely aware that this is a useless, downright toxic, waste of good time and precious energy, but I come from a long and hardy lineage of worriers.

So, when I get to thinking about all that we have on our plate for the coming months I immediately start picturing our family subsiding on nothing but Raman Noodles, huddling for warmth around a fire in a trash can.  But life has this way of repeatedly reminding me that the more I plan, and try to control and manipulate the path I travel, the more surprised I will be to find that nothing ever really unfolds the way I imagine it will.  And not only that, it usually works itself out much more smoothly and poetically than I could have orchestrated on my own anyway.  I'm slowly learning that in these times when anxiety finds a hold in the corners of my brain, and when the enormity and uncertainty of the future utterly overwhelm me, is when I need to focus on what is right in front of me, in the present.  I need notice the ways that life is flowing along beautifully today and savor them, because the only thing I can affect is this moment.

I need to soak up this time with my little cutie, and drink in her excitement when we go on adventures like apple picking.

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I need to appreciate the fleeting moments where the love of a mother for her littles outshines everything else.

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And appreciate the goodness of time spent in the fresh air, with close friends and family.

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Because when life hands me thirty pounds of apples, well that's when I check one more thing off my grand canning plan and can me a whole lot of applesauce.

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I'm also slowly learning to let go of my need for things to be done perfectly, and to accept help from others.  I was always the person in group projects offering to do all the work because I felt like that was the only way I could be certain it would meet my outrageous expectations.  As I made my applesauce I talked Jon through my chicken pot pie recipe, the one I know like the back of my hand.  And I tried not to nitpick when he eyeballed spice measurements rather than use measuring spoons, and definitely bit my tongue when he crimped the edge of the crust together much differently (and a little more messily) than I would have, and lo and behold the resulting pot pie was perfect.  Turns out Jon's pie crimping technique that almost made my head pop, made for a much more rustic looking, more beautiful pot pie, and it tasted absolutely delicious!  I couldn't have made it better myself, and that's the truth.

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It really puts into perspective the things that are important, and the things that aren't worth fussing and worrying over.  And when I walk into a bedroom to find Jon, Milani, and bunny rabbit curled up reading Goodnight Moon, I am reassured that our lives are indeed unfolding perfectly.

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Because it's nearly impossible to stress over the future when this little entertaining chica is making the present such an absolute delight.

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Oh and Happy BEE-lated Halloween!! 

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A Toast to Three Years

In some ways it feels like three lifetimes ago, when we were single and planning our wedding, booking our honeymoon and speculating about the future that lay ahead.  And it feels like just yesterday, the way the details are etched into my memory, the way the sky looked and breeze felt, the nervous knot in my stomach, the slow walk down the isle and night of endless dancing that followed.

I thought it would be a great idea, to spend the night before the wedding by myself in the honeymoon suite.  I would take a bubble bath in the jaccuzzi, pamper myself, relax in solitude.  No one warned me how terrible an idea it was.  I filled the bath, relaxing lavender scented bubbles to the brim, and I soaked, and then I was done soaking and it was only ten thirty, and I was anything but relaxed.  I was alone, bored, lonely, and absolutely unable to sleep.  Excitement and nerves sent thoughts and visions stampeding around my brain, like a demolition derby of prewedding hitters hijacked my consciousness.  Minutes stretched on and on, hours seemed like an eternity, tomorrow would never come.  Neither did sleep.

By five-o-clock the sun was barely casting a faint glow over the horizon, and the honeymoon suite felt like a prison, a torture chamber without anyone or anything to distract me from the panic attack that was swallowing me.  My mouth was dry, and my hands were shaky and clammy.  I had to breathe, get fresh air, so I went outside and walked around the empty wedding tent, meandering between tables in the dim predawn light.  There is only so long you can kill time by pacing alone in an empty tent, so I went back to the room and watched the weather channel.  The girls weren't picking me up until nine, I must have seen the local forcast about 30 times.

I was never so relieved to see anyone as I was when Rachel and Jackey arrived to pick me up, my saving graces rescuing me from my deserted island.  I'm not sure they were expecting to see a pale, trembling, panicky bride.  On the way to the salon they stopped at Sheetz and got me ginger ale and granola bars, and reminded me to take a bite and a sip every now and then.  It was better, being in the company of family and friends, laughing and joking while Justin did my hair and Sara painted my nails.  I managed to get my makeup done, and my dress and veil on without passing out or throwing up.

And then it was time.  Time to walk down the isle.  Time to marry my best friend and become Mrs. Vanness.  I was nervous right up until the moment I saw Jon at the end of the isle, looking relaxed and happy.  The ceremony went by in a haze.  I remember screwing up words and the Judge having to make me repeat that part, and laughing and getting all flustered.  I remember Andrea and my mom reciting their readings.  I remember exchanging rings and vows, and our first kiss and introduction.  And feeling like I was walking on air as I went back down the isle hand in hand with Jon.

I remember all the hugs and congratulations in the receiving line, getting to greet all of our friends and family.  Then the pictures that seemed to take forever, as we smiled into the setting sun pretending that our retinas weren't about to burst into flames.  It wasn't until we were introduced into the reception that I think I really started to enjoy the day.  All the business was behind us, everything checked off the list except for the eating and drinking and dancing.  And that's what we did.  We drank homemade Italian red wine until our teeth turned purple, and didn't leave the dance floor.  When the band took a break, we took over the drums and microphone to keep the party going, and belted out Mr. Big's To Be With You because that's what we do at weddings.  We danced to the jukebox long after the band packed up and left.

We were happy and exhausted as we headed to our suite, leaving behind guests still at the bar taking shots.  I can remember Jon and I laughing and trying to ignore the endless banging on our hotel door from one of our drunk friends who had either locked himself out of his room, or was locked out by his significant other, which I can't remember.  I honestly can't recall now who was even pounding on the door, but I remember it went on for quite a while before they realized that they weren't crashing in the honeymoon suite, and gave up.  The day was perfect really.  It was the most amazing day, and the most fun I ever had at a wedding, maybe I'm a little biased.

It was three years ago today that I walked down the isle and married my best friend.  Three years ago today that we walked hand in hand back down the isle.  And Jon still walks beside me, hand in hand, through every day and every season and I couldn't be more grateful to be Mrs. Vanness.

**All of these gorgeous pictures were taken by Sara Zigon - Zigon Photography**


 Happy Anniversary Jon. 

I Love You!

Sweet Anticipation

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Jon and I are expecting again, eagerly awaiting the arrival of a new little sweetie come late December, and while this isn't breaking news, I haven't had the urge to write about the pregnancy until this week.  I'll admit that it's taken me completely by surprise that I haven't been bursting at the seams and overflowing with prenatal anecdotes and updates.

My first pregnancy was like a wild fire, charged with electricity, evolving a life of its own.  I would have broadcast on national television, and radio, and from the highest mountain just to hear the words "I'm pregnant" come out of my mouth, as if hearing them made it more real, more concrete. It was like that week right after you get engaged when you find yourself peeking at the new diamond sparkling on your left hand just to remind yourself that its real, and you aren't dreaming.  And the first time around I had nothing more important to occupy my every waking thought, so it consumed me and became my identity for those months.

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But this time it didn't come thundering into my life, elbowing its way to the forefront of my awareness.  Instead it rolled in like the changing tides and found a home in the stillness beneath the hustle and bustle of everyday life.  This pregnancy has had a quieter and more peaceful presence, and has patiently taken a backseat as I continue giving Milani the majority of my time and attention. 

Every pregnancy brings with it an intrinsic sense of worry, a laundry list of fears and anxieties and doubts.  Every pregnancy feels a little bit delicate, a little fragile, like for nine months I am teetering between unsurpassed joy, and unbearable heartbreak.  It feels, for nine months, like I am carrying a butterfly that can at any moment fly away, and I want to hold onto it tightly, and closely, to fiercely protect it, to make it stay, but pregnancy doesn't work that way.  And we are so lucky and so grateful that our pregnancy scales so far have been tipped heavily in favor of blessings, because I know that on the other side of that scale is pain and disappointment that I couldn't even imagine.  My heart breaks for friends who have felt the weight of such loss, and I feel guilty, like an imposter, when I try to offer words of sympathy or encouragement.  All I can do is provide my love and support, and then bow my head and ferociously thank the heavens above for this little girl sleeping beside me and the tiny one tumbling within.

To be honest, it took some time for me to embrace this pregnancy, to really feel excited and enthusiastic about it.  In a way, I feel like a terrible, horrible mother for not being elated right off the bat, and it's an unusual thing to feel a little bit like I'm betraying the angel we already have by bringing along another; to feel the need to protect the one I've grown to love so wildly from feeling any resentment or hurt from the arrival of her sibling.  But my sweet Milani will be an amazing big sister, of this I have no doubt.  She is so kind and so loving, I think having a younger sibling will only make her shine brighter than she does already.  I can't wait to watch their relationship grow and their friendship unfold.

I plan to savor these last couple months of afternoons spent together with my girl, just the two of us, two peas in our pod, while we make room in our pod and our life and our hearts for the new arrival.  And I will thank God for every little kick, and wiggle I feel as our little one grows, knowing that each movement is confirmation that our peanut is growing strong and healthy.  Until December my tiny darling, rest easily and comfortably, and know we love you and can't wait to meet you!

Only Worry in the World is the Tide Gonna Reach My Chair?

I have a theory that it is impossible to be in a bad mood when you are within sight, or sound, or even the salty marine smell of the ocean.  Something about it's rhythmic breaking of the waves on the sand, constant breeze, and vast size stretching out indefinitely until it melts into the horizon, makes it very restorative, and therapeutic to me.  It grounds me, and centers me, and fills me with a deep sense of peace.  I was in desperate need of time at the ocean.  The last time I saw it was in 2008 and the amazing perspective it gives me was slowly fading and weathering in the daily grind.  And I couldn't wait for Milani to get her first taste of salty ocean water, and golden sand.  A little part of me was certain she would love it since we discovered her name while honeymooning in Maui.  I mean, that practically makes her a Hawaiian baby.  A child of the black sand beaches, and lush palm trees.
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My golden beach baby proved me right.  She's right at home covered in sand from head to toe, and doesn't hesitate to run right up and flirt with the breaking waves.

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She got to spend time with cousins that she doesn't see nearly often enough, and she watched keenly as they collected shells, and played in the surf, and dug holes.

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I don't entirely understand the fascination with digging holes at the beach, maybe its a boy thing, but sure enough as you scan down the shore, holes are constantly being dug and deepened and barricaded from the rising tide.  And another boy thing, or should I say father thing; swinging your fourteen month old daughter around like a monkey.  I cringe and envision a trip to the hospital with a dislocated shoulder, and I warn against the guilt he'll feel once her face is stained with salty, sandy tears.  But to no avail.  He loves to swing her and she loves to be swung.  She giggles and squeals and begs for more, and I just keep my fingers crossed that fooling won't lead to crying.

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I love that at the beach, you are expected to do nothing other than enjoy yourself.  You can read a book, flip a magazine, play in the water or sand, nap lazily, talk about anything or talk about nothing.  There is no such thing as an awkward silence, just a break in conversation filled by the churning surf and the shriek of gulls and the innocent chatter of nearby children playing.

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We took an afternoon to visit the Cape May Zoo.  This zoo found its way into our hearts the first summer Jon and I started dating.  During a short vacation in Stone Harbor that summer, we visited it not once, but twice.  It is one of the neatest, cleanest zoos we've ever visited.  Milani stared open mouthed and wide eyed as we visited the different animals.  (Apparently so did her father)

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Interestingly, Milani's favorite animals on this vacation weren't the monkeys, or tigers, but the seagulls. She can reproduce the most realistic seagull squalk, and loved giggling and chasing them down the shore.

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I think my girl is meant to be near the ocean and a part of her spirit is reignited by the waves, and I know Jon lights up at first sight of the ocean.  I think we need to make sure that we spend some time at the shore every summer, so that we can look out over the blue expanse of water and re-frame our lives with the humble perspective.  And because I'm absolutely certain that it's impossible to be in a bad mood at the shore.

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"I Can't Believe It's a Girl..."

It's a double post kind of a day, because this news and these pictures are too sweet to sit on for a week!  

We should have known when she insisted on staying put for an extra week and five days, only a little princess could command such a dramatic entrance.  Fashionably late, and in a swarm of excitement.  It's the only way she would have it.

**for the full effect, read the next paragraph into a tape recorder and play back on high speed**

I got the text from Ariana Monday morning at 6:51 asking if I was still up for watching the boys, and at 6:55 the text telling me to "take my time."  And so I did.  Until 7:05 when my phone lit up with a call from Jake, "Get here quick!".  I've never changed a diaper, dressed a baby, dressed myself, put in contacts, brushed my teeth, and packed an entire days worth of food and diapers for Milani so quickly.  As I pulled into Grandma Andrea's at 8:00 to drop off Milani I got a text from Jake "Baby's Coming!"  S^&@#T!! I quite literally jumped out of my car and into Andrea's and took off like a bat out of hell, to pull up at their house, and sprint up the stairs, bursting into the front door.

At 8:20 a perfect, gorgeous, tiny baby girl was born.  By tiny I mean 10 lb 0 oz.

From the moment I found out she was pregnant, I thought Ariana was having a girl and I stood firmly by my prediction, never wavering.  A couple months back we were standing around in Ariana's kitchen each defending our gender predictions, and I can remember her saying, "When I look into my future I just can't picture myself as the mother of a girl.  I just don't see it happening.  I think I'm meant to only raise boys"  And on Monday, I know it still took a little while to sink in.  I think I heard Ariana mutter "I can't believe it's a girl" or "I can't believe I have a daughter" about twelve times.  Now I'm not the type to break out into an obnoxious victory dance, or rub the I told you so's into one's face, but you can't say I didn't give you fair warning that you'd be delivering a little lady.  And it'll be sweeter than you could ever imagine.  Your little girl.  I promise. 

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Sweet Summertime Continued

Forth of July

On the average day, I have to admit, I don’t really think much about what it means to be an American.  I’m not exceptionally patriotic, and don’t involve myself in politics.  I typically scurry around in my little corner of the world, blissfully naive and pathetically ignorant to most of the inner workings of the country I call home.  But on one pinnacle day a year, when we’re all called to drop the petty differences that separate us into “I” and “you”, and “us” and “them”, and instead join hands with our sisters and brothers in stars and stripes to become “We the people”, well that I can get on board with.

Our day was filled with family and friends, sunshine and tasty treats.  We splashed in the pool;

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And played;

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And nibbled on goodies until we were stuffed. 

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It was the quintessential Independence Day celebration.  And because we had already been dazzled by the Pittston fireworks, we headed home before the sun set with a little girl who wasted no time passing out from exhaustion in her car seat.  Jon and I watched the fireworks erupt across the horizon as we drove, ready to pass out from exhaustion in our bed, thankful to be American living in the land of the free and the home of the very brave. 


Backyard Splashes

The sun has grown strong and the temperatures are soaring, and while we love to branch out to visit nearby pools or the lake, sometimes we find ourselves going only as far as the back yard.

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Milani loves water.  Bathtub water.  Lake water.  Even baby pool water.  She's even climbed into her baby pool in full clothing.  It makes no difference as long as she gets to splash and swoosh, and fill her blocks only to dump them again.

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Maybe someday we'll have a real pool, or a boat, or a house on the beach (wishful thinking) but in the meantime we'll beat the heat splashing in the backyard.


Blueberry Picking

I know I've already preached my sentiment on these plentiful summer months, my love of harvesting the fruits of our labor, and sometimes other people's labor.  And that craving for the satisfaction of picking produce with my own hands, and finding ways to preserve it to be savored months from now, is the reason we've raided the blueberry patch twice already.

We visited Bill's Blueberries, a quaint little gem of a blueberry farm, run on an honor system by a friendly old man (who I can only assume must be Bill) and his sweet wife.  Handmade signs mark the driveway and decorate the shed, and rusty antique farming equipment adorns the lawn.

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Random trinkets like old milk jugs in a rusty wire rack, a weathered barrel, dirty leather yolks, that would look like trash anywhere else, fit perfectly into their places around the farm lending an air of nostalgia.

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From a single speaker, oldies drift faintly across the farm, carried on the breeze so that songs seem to fade in and out as you pick.

True to standard picking procedure, pounds of blueberries plunked into our buckets, and an ounce or two (or three) went directly down the hatch.  Milani climbed among the trees, and sampled some green blueberries.
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Curious to understand what was so appealing to her about those little green blueberries, I sampled one, and oh my goodness are they beyond sour.  The awful aftertaste lingered for hours, and I can't imagine how she managed to continue popping them in her mouth one after another.  Let's just assume she's still developing her palate, and of course she still managed to eat her fair share of blue ones from the bucket.

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The boys found other ways to fill their buckets.

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Bill even has a little patch of raspberry bushes, and I managed to scour them for enough berries to turn into sweet and tart raspberry jam.

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Another preserve checked off my grand canning plan.  And as soon as the sweltering temperatures return to a more bearable level, blueberry lemon preserves are next on the list.

Ok, so maybe I have one more rant about canning, but I can't freaking help it, I'm hooked!  Every time I pull my little jam jars out of the boiling water, and listen to the lids pop down one by one as they cool, I gain such a sense of satisfaction.  It's like I've sealed away a piece of this summer.  Like I've filled a jar with sweet memories, and a little sunshine.  Like I've managed to capture the love and fun and energy of these days, and tuck it away for a cold rainy day.  And since fewer people can and preserve these days than was done years ago, I feel like I'm part of an effort to resurrect a dying past time.  To stand next to a massive pot of boiling canning water, stirring bubbling jam the way my grandmother or great grandmother might have, is pretty satisfying in itself.  End of sermon.


Dalton Carnival

Jon and I used to visit the Dalton Carnival beer tent every summer.  We used to drink pitchers of Miller Lite from little plastic cups, and catch up with friends we hadn't seen all summer.  We used to stay long after the stars came out, and the families with little ones headed home to read bedtime stories, and strings of little yellow bulbs illuminated the tent.

Maybe out of habit, or an attempt to hold true to tradition, we headed to the carnival last week.  We went on a Thursday instead of Saturday.  We arrived at six instead of nine, and left well before sunset.  Water was the only beverage we guzzled.

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Milani enjoyed a sampling of roast beef, potato pancakes, and pizza.

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She looked wide eyed at the lights, and rides, and games with bright colored prizes.

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This year she was content to observe, but next time I'm sure she'll be begging to ride the rides, and play the games.

And my girl is a flirt!  She will scan a crowd for anyone who will make eye contact, and then girlfriend turns on the charm.

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She grins, and laughs, and plays shy.  She'll spin, and dance, and put on a show for anyone who will give her the attention.  We stayed long enough for her to elicit some smiles and chuckles, and headed home with a full belly and bolstered ego.

To be honest, I didn't even miss the beer tent.  I'm happy to forge new traditions, and I enjoy watching my girl soak in new experiences.  And I love that we've become the family with a little one who heads home well before the stars come out to read bedtime stories.

Smokin' Hot Celebration

Lately I haven't been able to keep stride with the ferocious pace of the passing days.  The lag between when I'm snapping the pictures and when I'm publishing the posts is growing.  Don't get me wrong, I am a firm believer in there being no such thing as too much fun, and the cookouts and parties keep coming one after another.  I'm just a little bit overwhelmed with the pace of life this summer.

At any rate, two handsome gents provided good reason for celebration as Jadon celebrated his fifth birthday and Landry is about to land on his third.  And so the clan gathered together at the park again to play in the sun, and eat good food, to talk, and laugh, and enjoy each others company.


We feasted on all the requisite summer cookout goodies like potato salad, and pasta salad, dogs and burgers, and of course wedge after wedge of sweet ruby watermelon.


We grilled with such charisma that the Dalton Fire Co. stopped by to check out our hot dog smoke as it spiraled toward the clear blue sky.


Ok, I lied.  Some generous firemen from the Dalton Fire Co. stopped by with the fire engine so that the kids could climb aboard and put their hands on the steering wheel.  So that they might feel like brave heroes waving from the window of the gleaming truck.


There was a playground at the park?  What playground?  Who needs a playground when you have a fire engine!


I think the kids even managed to forget about cake and presents as the firemen put on a demonstration of their gear.  Both kids and adults were entranced and amazed as a regular guy transformed into a fire warrior.


Only after the firemen waved goodbye and pulled away in their yellow engine could we light the candles and open the presents.  The carrot cake was so delicious, some of us may have snagged extra pieces.  And nothing beats that cream cheese frosting.


The wrapping paper flew, and toys were waved in the air like cherished prizes. 


It was a first rate summer celebration, a smokin' party, and two happy birthdays.

Happy Birthday Jadon and Landry!!


**Playlist no longer automatically plays when you open this page, so you have to scroll down and hit play in order to hear the music with the post**

There is something amazingly refreshing about breaking away from the day-to-day routine.  About abandoning everyday life and stepping into nature.  Changing the scenery and changing the pace.  Leaving behind cell phones, laptops, and obligations.

Over Memorial Day weekend we traded our house and our bed for a tent and sleeping bag.  Our neighbors were towering hemlocks and an expanse of blue sky and matte clouds served as a roof.  We gathered with family around a picnic table instead of a kitchen table and laughed by the flickering light of the campfire instead of a TV.  It was our annual Memorial family camping weekend.
The weekend is a collection of activities strung together by custom and popular vote, and the atmosphere is relaxed, where at anytime, anyone can opt out of the current adventure to swing lazily in a hammock kept company by the dogs.

Being Milani's first camping trip, I wasn't sure how she would  like it, but girlfriend rocked it!   
She jacked her crawl into four wheel drive and scoped out the campsite, scavenging under the picnic table for treasures, examining the underside of rocks, and sifting fine gray dirt through her fingers.
She enjoyed time with Grandma Debbie, accumulating hugs and kisses and cuddles.
And tried out some new shades.
Big cousins taught little cousins how to throw, and catch, and the way to blow bubbles.
Big cousins showed little cousins how to hug and kiss and love on each other. 
And cousins exchanged tumbling fits of contagious laughter.

Sunday afternoon we hiked over wooden bridges and past thorny brambles to set eyes on Little Falls, debating over the identity of each three leaved plant along the path (Poison Ivy), and the species of origin of a pile of...droppings (Bear).
I was sure that Milani would have been rocked to sleep on Jon's back as we hiked, but those big chocolate eyes didn't miss a thing.
She lounged in the carrier, comfortable as could be, and took everything in.
We finished our hike next to the lake and enjoyed our picnic lunch with our eyes glued to the treeline, hoping to catch a glimpse of one of the resident bald eagles prowling for fish.

Certainly no camping trip would be complete without the men tapping into their caveman instincts, attempting valiantly and exhaustively to start a fire by rubbing sticks together.  Their best efforts produced a few promising wisps of white smoke, but no glowing embers or orange flames.  MemorialCamping161-Edit
So we busted out the lighter and stoked the campfire to cook our ceremonious feast of burgers and dogs.  The picnic table was loaded with a smorgasbord and we heaped our plates with pasta salad, green salad, and fruit salad, nibbling on pretzels and chips and Memorial Day cookies.

Despite the gross amount of food we consume at dinner, as soon as the sun dips below the horizon we break out the marshmallows, Hershey's bars, and graham crackers.  We share our tips on roasting the perfect 'mallow, and making the best s'more, and play musical chairs to avoid the campfire smoke.  We take turns throwing wood on the fire, and poking the embers, and discussing how each log burns.  We share new stories and recite familiar old stories that still produce an eruption of laughter, until one by one we retreat to our tents.

We drifted to sleep under a clear star filled sky, and Milani slept like a log until we awoke at 3:45 to distant thunder, and managed to cover the tent minutes before the rain came.  The wind howled through the trees and the rain fell in sheets, and I worried my girl would get frightened.  I worried this thunderstorm would make her hate tents and sleeping bags and all things camping related, but she proved me so wrong.  Sister just snuggled in close to me, clinging like a koala, and listened to the storm.  Her big eyes scanned the tent and watched quietly as it bowed in the wind, never a peep or whimper or cry, and just as soon as the storm started to pass she fell peacefully back to sleep until 8:30. (Why doesn't she sleep like this at home??)

Monday morning we headed back to the lake with fishing poles and some of us actually fished, displaying the patience and persistence of reeling and casting, watching and waiting.
But some of us just fished for seaweed, and tossed pebble after pebble into the rippling water.
And the rest of us just watched and played and savored the fresh air.
 I'm not sure how many years an annual event must occur before it can be titled tradition, but if our Memorial weekend family camping trips haven't hit tradition status yet, I sure hope they will.  I hope maybe Milani will someday fondly look back on the memories forged on our weekends in the woods; the laughter, and hikes, and time spent with family.  Sure someday she will be sharing her own funny stories around a campfire, but maybe they'll include stories born on some future Memorial weekend where she and her cousins laughed until they cried.  Maybe our family camping trips will transcend the title traditional, and truly embrace Memorial.

Where'd My Baby Go?

She used to sleep swaddled tightly, in a soft cocoon.  Now she sleeps sideways, diagonal, upside down.  Stretched out and twisted, constantly wiggling and flopping around.  Her head ends up near Jon and her mini puffy feet kick me in the head.

She used to roll sweetly from her tummy to her back, and back to her tummy.  Blinking those huge chocolate eyes and soaking in the world from her quilt.  Now she crawls and stands and cruises.  I know that any moment babygirl will start to walk, and when she does I will be overjoyed.  I will proudly celebrate her success, and the accomplishment she's been working so hard toward.  But there is a little part of me that is hoping she takes her time.  A little part that is clinging dearly to the sweet little crawling baby.  A tiny little part of me that feels like those first steps signal the beginning of toddler-hood and the closure of her baby-nessAnd that part of me is constantly pondering "Where did my baby go?" 

My baby is one year old.

Last week we celebrated her first birthday.  All day long Jon and I enthusiastically wished her "Happy Birthday!".  I'm sure she didn't entirely understand what all the commotion was about, but she seemed to bask in the attention none the less.

We baked a cake, and we lit a candle, and we sang to the sweet birthday girl like there was no tomorrow.  Jon and I both fake blew at the candle to teach her how to blow it out herself, until I accidentally fake blew it out.  Milani didn't mind.  Her mini fingers swiped a handful of chocolate icing, and she slowly savored bite after bite of her cake.
Then, of course, came the presents.  Her favorites were her musical instruments and shopping cart.  Girlfriend can bang out a sick beat, and shake the maracas like nobody's business.  She did laps with the shopping cart, and as one who always does things in her own style, with a little Lani-flair, the shopping cart went around sideways.
And last weekend we gathered with family and friends at the park for Milani's first birthday party. 
We stoked up the charcoal until burgers and dogs sizzled, and enjoyed bright watermelon as the juice dripped down to our elbows. 
And as one who always does things in my own forgetful style, with a little Eena-flair, I forgot the birthday candle.  Ariana raced to the rescue so we could sing with a pink candle atop a pink ice cream cone cupcake.  We had a lot of great helpers to blow out the candle, and a lot of great helpers eager to unwrap the gifts.
We saw rain, and sun, and a little sun-shower, but the air was warm and the day was perfect.  I even caught a glimpse of a rainbow in the evening sky.  I couldn't have planned it better.
My baby is one year old. 

Milani may no longer be that tiny little newborn baby, but she growing ever more beautiful and strong, confident and funny.  She is just as perfect today as she was the moment I first saw her, and there's no greater pleasure than watching her grow, and thrive, and blossom.  I fondly remember the tiny baby, and anticipate the joys to come, while I embrace every moment of our precious time together today.

I just realized that I haven't been receiving, or been able to view any comments left on my posts.  Unfortunately any comment left before Friday May 20 I never got to read, and can't figure out how to recover them.  The problem should be fixed from here forward, but I'm bummed I missed those comments.  If you feel like re-posting any comments you left, I'd love to read them.  If not, that's all good too.  So Sorry.  Thanks for reading!!

Springtime Symphony

I'm not sure what it is about the first warm sunny weekends of the spring that leave such a vivid impression on me.  There are certain characteristics that are present every year, a consistent set of ingredients that produce this springtime symphony.  The blue sky, and warm sun.  A coolness to the breeze that reminds me that it isn't quite summer yet.  The birds chirping and lawnmowers humming together in a flowing chorus.  The occasional throaty rumble of a motorcycle, and eclectic playlist compiled from each passing car's stereo.  And that amazing barbecue smell that drifts on the breeze when everyone realizes it's the perfect day to grill.
I can remember weekends like this from when I was young, and my father would be tilling the soil, and planting the garden.  He would work hard and long until his skin was dusted with dirt and beads of sweat were gathered on his brow.  I was eager enough to help, but never accomplished much before my attention wandered and I was on to the next thing.  I don't think I ever really understood why he worked so hard on what looked like a whole mess of trouble just so that we could have a garden.

Now I get it.  Sure, the sugar snap peas, cucumbers, and endless tomatoes are reason enough.  But they aren't the reason.  There's a certain satisfaction to a day spent sowing seeds and moving earth.  To feeling your muscles work and stretch, and working up a sweat.  When you step back to survey at the end of an afternoon of weeding and confirm that every last weed has been evicted and your little plot has never looked better.  It's all therapeutic, cathartic, even meditative.
Maybe someday Milani will want to help.  Maybe her attention span will only last three minutes before she's off on the next adventure.  Just to be able to look up and find her playing in the yard is lovely enough. 
To observe as she goes from one ball to the next;
And then on to the fence;
To hanging with dad;
And back to watching me.  Her spirit is radiant and her presence invigorating.
And after a weekend spent both working and playing hard, nothing feels better than collapsing into a cozy nap.
Now our weekend is over, and the sun is hidden, but the traces of dirt still under my fingernails are evidence of the afternoons spent in the yard.  We will survive the coming string of chilly wet days by anticipating our next weekend in the sun.

Happy Monday!


What do you do when the forcast shows warm and sunny, but the scene out the window threatens otherwise?  Milani and I packed up our lunches, put on our layers, and bolstered our faith in the fickle weatherman.  We set out to meet up with Ariana and the boys determined to enjoy this spring Friday.

We pulled into the playground parking lot beneath cold thick clouds. 

We stretched our chilly muscles on the playground beneath cold thick clouds. 

We even ate our picnic lunch beneath the ominous and ugly cold thick clouds.  
It wasn't until the words "hot chocolate" actually left someone's lips that the clouds began to dissolve allowing patches of sunlight to flirt, and it wasn't long before endless blue sky stretched out above us and the sun glistened in all her glory.  Layers started peeling off one by one.

The first thing on the agenda; digging and burrowing, shoveling and dumping.  The boys concentrated on some heavy construction and Milani let handful after handful of sand slip through her fingers.
But it was the tire swing that had been calling my name since the moment we'd arrived.  The swing had other plans for me.  That's right, my shining moment on the tire swing lacked any resemblance of grace or coordination, and I think Milani may have witnessed her 11 month long life flash before her eyes.  Not to worry, we both escaped the debacle unscathed, I only wish I could post a gigantic picture (or better yet video) of the entire scene.  Jadon and Landry must have been graced with all the tire swing savvy in the family.
Milani enjoyed some swing time with Ariana that hopefully erased any residual trauma from swing time with me.
 And no trip to the playground would be complete without making yourself tripping, stumbling, fall flat on your face dizzy.  Multiple times!
Weatherman you didn't disappoint!  We left the park both energized and exhausted, with our cheeks rosy and our spirits recharged. 
Happy Monday!

Liquid Gold

Today the sun is tucked away behind a blanket of matte gray clouds.  Every crevice in the sidewalk is collecting pools of rain.  Little clear beads are clinging to the edge of the gutter.

And I couldn’t be happier.

Because just this weekend we nestled our first tender seedlings in the newly tilled soil. I love beautiful sunny days and pristine blue skies as much as anyone, but I know those little green babes are basking in the light spring rain. 

Saturday, however, was anything but gray.  The breeze was warm, the sun was golden, and the grass felt cool against our feet.
It was Milani's first chance to really explore the great outdoors and she wasted no time uncovering buried treasure and tasting fingers-full of dirt.  She scooted toward every corner of the yard and earned her first pair of dirt and grass stained knees.
We offered our fondest moral support as Jon tilled the soil and found homes for our first batch of seedlings.
And Milani kept a meticulous watch on the kids playing next door.  Paying close attention to their games and memorizing the rules because as soon as she's walking, baby, she is definitely going to want in.
 So today I'm ok with sitting indoors watching the rain stream down the windows, because I know that the sun will be busting out before long and coaxing our little crop skyward.  I look forward to many hazy days spent weeding in the garden.  To wiping the sweat from my brow with the back of a dirt covered hand.  To watching Milani find her own corner to burrow in the dirt.  Oh yes it's going to be amazing, so fall gently sweet rain - the garden is thirsty.