On Daily Practice

Every time the distance between blog posts stretches from days to weeks to months, an entire season elapses between moments spent tethering thoughts together and spinning words into stories, it's a safe bet that I haven't been keeping good care of myself.

It's not that the last couple months have been incredibly busy, bursting at the seams with work and play and adventure, though there has been a fair amount of each.  It's not that I haven't had time, or couldn't have set aside time, or didn't want to spend the time writing.  It's just a pattern, a way of living that's worn like a familiar path through the woods, that I stumble back onto despite my best intentions not to.

For me, writing is like so many other practices that fill me and ground me and connect me back to my senses, opening my eyes and my heart to the nuances of life that otherwise slip past unnoticed.  And like all those other practices, photography, meditating, journaling, praying, yoga, exercising, sipping on lemon water and green smoothies while the morning sun turns wispy clouds cotton candy pink, practices that I know from direct experience make my life rich and substantial in incredibly tangible ways, I gradually grow away from doing them.

Instead I barrel through my days, muscling my way through the routine, crashing into bed worn thin and empty.  I make excuses that there isn't time, I don't insist on making time, I put myself, my soul, on the back burner in the name of caring well for the ones I love.  And it doesn't occur to me until I've come completely unraveled, flailing and grasping in the most ungraceful ways, clutching desperately to my last shred of peace and sanity, that it might be wise to reintroduce those tools that tend to keep me from careening so dangerously close to the edge.

When things are going particularly well, it's so easy to toss them aside.  Who needs to meditate when life is unfolding smoothly and easily?  And when things are particularly rough, and busy, and overwhelming it's easy to justify that those frivelous little indulgences are obviously the first ones to eliminate.  Who wants to write in a gratitude journal before bed when your eyes are burning and bloodshot from lack of sleep?  So, unfortunately, it isn't until I'm out of control and relatively desperate that I reconsider the importance of maintaining these practices consistently.  Even then, I cling to the hope that maybe if I just do a little yoga, say give it a good week, it will miraculously mend everything allowing me to resume my haphazard, nonstrategic, relatively careless manner of existence.

Deep down, though, if I'm being completely honest, I know that it's the act and art of maintaining these practices, consistently, daily, that makes them so healing and grounding.  I know that grasping for them wildly only when I'm on the brink of certain disaster, and sticking to them for a brief time won't impart lasting peace.  It's the discipline of returning to them again and again, steadfastly, whether life is in the ebb or flow, easy or menacing, that will shift my experience. 

Just like Rumi encouraged:

Submit to a daily practice

Your loyalty to that

is a ring on the door.

Keep knocking, and the joy inside

will eventually open a window

and look out to see who's there.

And so I set the intention, in my heart and here in words, to keep much better care of myself.  To return to this page and the mat and the mantra, and to all these sacred, time tested rituals that root me deeply into peace and well being,

with much more consistency and regularity, in good times and in bad, till death do us part.  Or until I forget again and wander back down that old familiar path, and find myself a little wild, unraveled and desperate.

Fresh Start {Part One: The Inside Story}

I sat quietly under the stars the other night for the first time in a long time, reclining under the expanse of navy with my face turned skyward.  I was surprised to realize, or re-realize, that the stars really do twinkle, winking and shimmering from the heavens.  Airplanes etched dashed, blinking patterns across the ink, stars on the move.

It was after two glasses of bold Cabernet, which was plenty to offer me a substantial buzz, a splash short of drunk.  They say a drunk man's words are a sober man's thoughts.  I discovered that a significantly tipsy mom's thoughts are an exhausted mom's release.  I was able to quiet the chronic din of judgment and fear, the voices of negativity and doubt and inferiority that tumble around in my skull and batter my tender soul.  And from the steady quiet that rests below the tumultuous turbulence, arose a sturdy sense of peace and happiness, and a great swell of gratitude for the countless ways that my life is blessed.  I made a mental note to drink more often.

On the twilight of my third decade in this body, I feel the need to acknowledge from where I came, and wipe the slate clean so that I can be receptive to the beauty that lies ahead.  Here I'll leave the baggage and burden, so that my steps can be light and my mind clear.

Random Beauty-001.jpg

Random Beauty-002.jpg

The last handful of years have been a season of transformation and growth, fraught with the heavy pain and discomfort that accompany great expansion and evolution.  I am certain that it's impossible for the heart and soul to stretch and mature without the gut wrenching pangs of growing pains. 

Random Beauty-004.jpg

It wasn't so long ago that crippling depression and anxiety wrung the light out of my life with their gnarled and disfigured hands.  It was a grim morning when I snapped awake to the reality that I had wasted so much of my life determining the ways to make others happy and proud.  Laboring to acquire respect and acceptance and love.  I had never bothered to discover the ways to make myself happy and proud, neglected to earn my own respect and acceptance and love, without which  I found myself empty.  I yearned to go to sleep and never wake up, slumber was the only relief from the pain.  Anger poisoned my perception.  I felt robbed, cheated out of the happiness I felt I deserved. 

And so slowly, painfully, I began teasing apart the values and feelings that were authentic and true from those that I adopted to gain the favor of others.  Like a patient in rehab I slowly learned how to hear my soul again, I learned how to feel the subtleties of happiness and joy, and I honed my ability to recognize the things that stir my heart.  I came to accept that happiness is a choice, and perception is subjective, and I started taking responsibility for my attitude and outlook.  I was right in my belief that happiness is our birthright, I just finally realized that I had to reach out and seize it rather than expect that it fall into my angry depressed lap.  And I'm nervous to declare that I feel like I'm nearing the end of this stretch of my journey, like a butterfly ready to bust out of the cocoon and stretch her wings.  Anxious to take flight, and soar.

Random Beauty-007.jpg

Random Beauty-009.jpg

Random Beauty-008.jpg

Sure, every now and again I can feel depression and anxiety crowding my space, and I fear that they bring luggage to unpack for an extended stay.  I worry that I will relapse.  But I'm finding that the more I practice positivity (and it is a practice), the more natural it becomes, the easier it is to find my way back to that place of quiet joy that is always just beneath the disturbance.  I know that life is strung with an array of seasons, some uncomfortable, others peaceful.  But now I feel equipped to navigate the uncertain terrain; with a clear compass and in tune with my soul I won't stray off my path.  Authenticity is my mantra.

Random Beauty-016.jpg

Random Beauty-010.jpg

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!

Strawberry Picking 1-001.jpg

Strawberry Picking 1-008-Edit.jpg

Strawberry Picking 1-015.jpg

Strawberry Picking 1-016-Edit.jpg

Strawberry Picking 1-013.jpg

Strawberry Picking 1-020.jpg

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.

Strawberry Picking 1-038.jpg

Strawberry Picking 1-040.jpg

Strawberry Picking 1-042.jpg

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.

Strawberry Picking 1-035-Edit.jpg

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.

Strawberry Picking 1-019.jpg

Strawberry Picking 1-031.jpg

Strawberry Picking 1-034.jpg

Strawberry Picking 1-032.jpg

Strawberry Picking 1-044.jpg

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.

Strawberry Picking 1-029-Edit.jpg
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.)

Strawberry Picking 1-047.jpg

Strawberry Picking 1-049.jpg

Strawberry Picking 1-050.jpg

Strawberry Picking 1-052.jpg

Strawberry Picking 1-054.jpg
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.

Strawberry Part 2-004.jpg

Strawberry Part 2-006-Edit.jpg

Strawberry Part 2-007.jpg

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.

Strawberry Part 2-011.jpg

Strawberry Part 2-012-Edit.jpg

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

Strawberry Part 2-009.jpg

Strawberry Part 2-010-Edit.jpg

Strawberry Part 2-013.jpg

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.

Strawberry Part 2-018-Edit.jpg

Strawberry Part 2-019.jpg

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.

Strawberry Part 2-027.jpg

Strawberry Part 2-029.jpg

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

Strawberry Part 2-025.jpg

Strawberry Part 2-033.jpg

Strawberry Part 2-034.jpg

Strawberry Part 2-022.jpg

Strawberry Part 2-031.jpg

Strawberry Part 2-042.jpg

Strawberry Part 2-040-Edit.jpg

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.

Hillside Farms-005.jpg

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.)

Hillside Farms-006.jpg

Hillside Farms-007.jpg

Hillside Farms-008.jpg

Hillside Farms-009.jpg

Hillside Farms-011.jpg

Hillside Farms-012.jpg

Hillside Farms-015-Edit.jpg

Hillside Farms-019.jpg

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

Hillside Farms-030.jpg

Hillside Farms-031.jpg

Hillside Farms-032-Edit.jpg

Hillside Farms-034-Edit.jpg

Hillside Farms-036.jpg

Hillside Farms-037.jpg

Hillside Farms-039.jpg

Hillside Farms-040.jpg

Hillside Farms-041.jpg

Hillside Farms-042.jpg

Hillside Farms-044-Edit.jpg

Hillside Farms-045.jpg

Hillside Farms-055-Edit.jpg

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.

Playing in the Bedroom-006.jpg

Playing in the Bedroom-005-Edit.jpg

Playing in the Bedroom-007.jpg

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.

Sunny Pool Day-008-Edit.jpg
Sunny Pool Day-005-Edit.jpg
Sunny Pool Day-003-Edit.jpg

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

Sunny Pool Day-003-Edit.jpg
Sunny Pool Day-001-Edit.jpg
Sunny Pool Day-016-Edit.jpg

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

Sunny Pool Day-015-Edit.jpg
Sunny Pool Day-014-Edit.jpg
Sunny Pool Day-009-Edit.jpg

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?)

Sunny Pool Day-021-Edit.jpg
Sunny Pool Day-022-Edit.jpg

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.

Milani's Second Birthday-003-Edit.jpg
Milani's Second Birthday-001-Edit.jpg 

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.

Milani's Second Birthday-010-Edit.jpg
 Milani's Second Birthday-005-Edit.jpg
Milani's Second Birthday-007-Edit.jpg
Milani's Second Birthday-009-Edit.jpg 

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.

Milani's Party Day-037-Edit.jpg
Milani's Party Day-019-Edit.jpg
Milani's Party Day-017-Edit.jpg
Milani's Party Day-033-Edit.jpg
Milani's Party Day-025-Edit.jpg
Milani's Party Day-036-Edit.jpg
Milani's Party Day-013-Edit.jpg
Milani's Party Day-009-Edit.jpg
Milani's Party Day-043-Edit.jpg
Milani's Party Day-040-Edit.jpg
Milani's Party Day-045-Edit.jpg

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.

Milani's Party Day-005-Edit.jpg

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.

Glasses and Bubbles-011-Edit.jpg
Glasses and Bubbles-010-Edit.jpg
Glasses and Bubbles-005-Edit.jpg
Glasses and Bubbles-007-Edit.jpg
Glasses and Bubbles-006-Edit.jpg
Johnny Jump Ups-003-Edit.jpg
Johnny Jump Ups-001-Edit.jpg

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.

Blueberry Muffins-001-Edit.jpg
Blueberry Muffins-007-Edit.jpg

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.

Berks toes and WB Play-001-Edit.jpg
Berks toes and WB Play-003-Edit.jpg
Berks toes and WB Play-007-Edit.jpg
Berks toes and WB Play-011-Edit.jpg
Berks toes and WB Play-002-Edit.jpg
Playing in the Bedroom-001-Edit.jpg
Berk on Bed-002-Edit.jpg
Berk on Bed-001-Edit.jpg

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.

Berkley's Birth-003.jpg

Berkley's Birth-004.jpg

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...

Berkley's Birth-008.jpg

Berkley's Birth-010-Edit.jpg

Berkley's Birth-011.jpg

Berkley's Birth-016-Edit.jpg

Berkley's Birth-017.jpg

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.

Berkley's Birth-024.jpg

Berkley's Birth-025.jpg

Berkley's Birth-020.jpg

Berkley's Birth-022.jpg

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.

Berkley's Birth-026-Edit.jpg





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!

Two-Under-Two Aint No Joke aka The Really Long Post

Off the top of my head I can think of more than a few moms who are so much more deserving of purple and gold Supermom capes than I am.  Moms with a great deal more heaped on their mom plates than the two scoops of sweet and delicious I've been served.  And truthfully, these two little puddins usually are the icing on my cake, but like all of the most rewarding endeavors in life mothering two under two is anything but easy.  Even as I write this post I hold a sleeping babe in one arm and type with my other free hand.

A few weeks of restless nights and foiled naps have caught up with Milani leaving her emotions simmering just under the surface, poised to erupt at the slightest offense.  Coupled with her adjustment to the arrival of little Berkley, her exhaustion has led my typically sweet and loving big sister toward a string of emotional meltdowns.  Things usually boil over close to nap time when she tries to climb on my lap while I nurse Berkley, and as I gently remind her that she's much bigger than her baby sister and will hurt her if she climbs on top of her, Milani unravels.  She unleashes her wail/scream/cry as big wet tears spill from her chocolate eyes.  It devastates me to watch her take one look at her sister then squeeze her eyes shut and shake her head as if she can make Berkley disappear like a bad dream.  I know that she's just looking for the undivided attention and love from me that she's known for most of her life, and that her acclimation to her new sister is slow and uncomfortable, like a growing pain, but I can't erase it and she can't go back to life without Berkley.  I can only hope that her uncertainty and frustration will evolve into a steadfast love for her sister.

Random Around the House-001.jpg

On the flip side, there are so many times during my day when Berkley will decide to wake up from a nap hungry and crying right when I'm in the middle of getting Milani lunch or changing a diaper.  Letting my babies cry it out isn't something that resonates with my maternal instinct, but by default my little Berkley is left waiting for my attention in a fit of tears much more often than Milani ever was.  I desperately hope that this little babe will feel as loved and cared for as her sister did as a newborn.

In moments like these I sometimes notice my mindset slipping into the treacherous terrain where "It will be easier when..." and  "I can't wait until..." start trying to convince me that the grass is greener on the other side of the fence.

Tiny Babykins-001.jpg
Tiny Babykins-006.jpg
more teenie baby feet

Maybe it will be easier when Milani is potty trained, or when Berkley is walking, but more likely we will just be facing new and different obstacles.  That thought pattern is nothing but a thief in the night robbing me of being present and connected with this moment, right now.  Whether joyful or unpleasant, every moment I spend with my two precious souls is a treasure and this time is fleeting.  Even though it might be hard to recognize when I'm changing my fifteenth diaper, or cleaning up the sixth spill of the day, I know that in the not so distant future my heart will ache for this time, for the feeling of a limp newborn warm in my arms as she nurses and naps, for the way my Milani astonishes me with the pace at which she learns new things, for the sound of a tiny voice calling out "mom... mama... mommy!!" a dozen times a day.  Oh how I want to savor every single detail of life with my littles, because this precious time is fleeting.

Random Around the House-007.jpg
Random Around the House-010.jpg

With all the trials and frustrations, my two-under-two scales are tipped heavily in favor of "moments that make my heart swoon."



...watching Milani love her "big brother", Moses, whom she looks up to and adores.

Head Gear and Puppies-006.jpg
Head Gear and Puppies-005.jpg

So much so that she plays what we call Puppy Milani where she crawls around on all fours with her tongue dangling out, picks things up with her mouth and barks.  I found all of this pretty cute until I turned around one afternoon to find her with her face in Moses' water bowl lapping up the water, and I almost threw up.  Now, when I see Puppy Milani come around, I waste no time putting out a little bowl of clean puppy water.


...seeing the way these girls light him up.

Dad and his Girls-005.jpg
Dad and his Girls-006.jpg

I think that every guy to some extent hopes someday to have a son, someone to carry on his name, someone to take to the driving range, a little fella to inherit the wealth of "guy knowledge" accumulated over a lifetime.  But Jon is an amazing father to these little sweeties.  He is absolutely wrapped tightly around their tiny little fingers, and they are most definitely the skip in his step.  

Dad and his Girls-001.jpg

And beyond him being the best father I could imagine, if there is any truth to the idea that girls seek out significant others with character traits similar to their fathers, these two little ladies are on the right track.  I can't imagine  anyone more capable of modeling the qualities of a great husband and father.  Maybe someday Jon will get a son, but I'm certain he won't do these two sweeties wrong.


...Milani's flair for fashion.  I really think that she may have a thing for fashion, and will be a trend setter with her ability to make mismatched and unconventional look effortless.  

Lately she's been rocking tons of original head gear.  She will sport anything; an empty Manning's ice cream container, my makeup bag, or any one of her many many hats.  She's been putting on Berkley's newborn baby hats which look, on her big head, like a cross between a yamaka and a beanie.

Head Gear and Puppies-002.jpg
wearing baby onesie
Head Gear and Puppies-001.jpg
Random Around the House-013.jpg
Random Around the House-015.jpg
A Day With the Cousins-019.jpg

And I think Lulu can really pull off the hat look.  I might need to grab a cute little knit messenger hat, because sister would rock it!


...taking "One Month" pics of my little Berkley in this hat.

One Month Shoot-003.jpg
One Month Shoot-010.jpg
One Month Shoot-022.jpg
One Month Shoot-018.jpg
One Month Shoot-014.jpg

And of course Milani couldn't pass up the opportunity to rock a photo shoot in a hat!

One Month Shoot-005.jpg


...snow days!

Snow Bunny-006-Edit.jpg


...watching Milani unleash her creativity

Art Table Day-002.jpg
Art Table Day-007.jpg

First and foremost I hope Milani is happy in her life, but right behind that I hope that she always finds joy in creativity.  She's been doing a lot of artwork lately, between our Play-Doh sessions, her coloring books, and her newest artistic medium - the paints.

Art Table Painting-001.jpg
Art Table Painting-004.jpg
Art Table Painting-002.jpg
"mom, here, you paint"
Art Table Painting-005.jpg

I am so inspired watching her swoop and dab with her paintbrush, letting whim direct her art, and thoroughly enjoying the act of creating.  

Art Table Painting-012.jpg
Art Table Painting-015-Edit.jpg
Art Table Painting-016.jpg

She teaches me the importance of letting go of perfectionism, and not stressing over the outcome, because like so many aspects of life, the substance and beauty are in the process not the product.  She is leading me by example to rediscover my own joy in creativity.


...afternoons kicking it with family.

A Day With the Cousins-006.jpg

Where Milani's passion for paints was ignited.

A Day With the Cousins-007.jpg
A Day With the Cousins-001-Edit.jpg
A Day With the Cousins-002.jpg
A Day With the Cousins-009-Edit.jpg
A Day With the Cousins-010.jpg
A Day With the Cousins-016.jpg
squishy lips


...random pics of my littlest that have no narration or back story.  They're just too sweet not to share.

Tiny Babykins-022.jpg
Tiny Babykins-023.jpg
Nap Baby-003.jpg
Head Gear and Puppies-003.jpg

Can I get an Amen?

On Inspiration

Since starting out on this writing journey I have felt the amazing force of the waxing and waning of creativity.  I have had weeks where I've been pulled to post every other day, and dry spells where I sweat bullets fighting to arrange a collection of words into a post, desperate just to get myself back into the flow.  I have posts that I love, that feel rich and inspired, and others that seem like total garbage.  And I'm searching for the rhyme or reason behind the drive to write, or create anything for that matter.

I wonder where the inspiration comes from?  Is it something I can learn to summon in times of need, something that can be willed to emerge?  And if it can, I haven't yet figured out what lures it out.  Sometimes I sit down to write, and stare at a blinking curser.  I force out a clumsy sentence, and immediately delete it.  I give it another go and another miss, and my frustration mounts.  It feels so unnatural for me to force writing, and even when I do manage to choke out an uninspired paragraph, I usually return to it and find it lifeless.  Missing that vital energy that makes inspired writing so soothing.  Maybe I just need more practice, more discipline, more time with my nose to the grindstone to learn how to get the gears turning.  Maybe the creativity can be strengthened like a muscle.  Or maybe I need to really look more closely at the other areas of my life to find the inspiration before I sit down at the keyboard.

Yet there are these times when words start stringing themselves along into sentences in my head, randomly.  It catches me off guard, and usually I'm somewhere other than at the computer, lying in bed, or driving down the road, or changing a diaper.  And as these sentences emerge I think to myself, Man this is some good stuff!  I need to remember this, I HAVE to get this in writing!  So sometime later, maybe later that day or the next, I do sit down and try to reconstruct the storyline that was literally stitching itself together so beautifully, but it's never the same.  I may be able to capture the gist, and a poetic phrase here and there, but I can never recreate it verbatim.  And then it's gone.

The thing I'm seeking is a marriage of the two, a way to harness the inspiration when it hits, get it to hang around a little while rather than fleeing.  And I know it's absolutely unreasonable for me to want the words to just flow every time I set out to write, but I wish there were a way to store it away for the moments I get the chance to write, or a way to recall it more purely. 

The only thing I'm sure of is that this little angel has been the single greatest source of inspiration in my life.

Pigtails and Snow1
If these aren't the cutest piggie tails I've ever laid eyes on!
Pigtails and Snow3
Love them!
Pigtails and Snow4

 She inspires me day in and day out to participate more fully in each and every moment, to show up and be present for each day that I'm blessed with.

Pigtails and Snow10-Edit
Pigtails and Snow11

And she ignites my appreciation and gratitude for the little things.

Pigtails and Snow12
Milani watching the snow out the window last Saturday
Pigtails and Snow14
Pigtails and Snow16

She shows me the world from an entirely different perspective and amazes me continually.

Pigtails and Snow31
Pigtails and Snow30-Edit
With her face literally pressed to the glass.
Pigtails and Snow32

Because of her, I am constantly inspired to be a better mother, a better wife, a better woman.

Pigtails and Snow25

If you have any insight or methods that you find helpful to conjure up inspiration or ignite creativity I'd love for you to leave me a comment telling me about it!

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.

Apple Picking1
Apple Picking2

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

Apple Picking3

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

Apple Picking10
Apple Picking7-Edit
Apple Picking9-Edit

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.

Apple Sauce, Pot Pie, and Carrots2
Apple Sauce, Pot Pie, and Carrots3-Edit
Apple Sauce, Pot Pie, and Carrots7

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.

Apple Sauce, Pot Pie, and Carrots4
Apple Sauce, Pot Pie, and Carrots5

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.

Goodnight Moon with Dad1
Goodnight Moon with Dad2

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

Milani's Sillies13
Milani's Sillies15-EditMilani's Sillies4-Edit

Oh and Happy BEE-lated Halloween!! 

Halloween Party2
Halloween Party5-Edit
Halloween Party6

Autumn, Bath Faces, and Fish Kisses Oh My!

One of these days I'll get my act together enough to write more frequent, normal length posts, keeping up with our adventures and my pictures so I stop posting massive epics.  Today is not that day.


First Fall Adventure

I love the fall.  It is, hands down, my favorite season of the year.  Pumpkin Spice coffee?  Yes please!  Orange?  My favorite color!  Fresh apple cider, cozy wool sweaters, the crisp breeze, boots, scarves and hats, mouthwatering roasted turkey and stuffing, swirling leaf cyclones, Penn State football, absolutely anything pumpkin flavored...the list could go on.  This season affects me on a deeper level, in a way I don't entirely understand.  My energy completely shifts and settles into a content state of peace.  I am calmer, and happier in the fall.  Always.

In keeping with the spirit of the season, Milani and I met up with Ariana, Jake and crew at Miller's Farm.  Although we didn't make it onto the hayride we spent several hours playing hard, breathing deeply lungfuls of fresh autumn air, squishing our boots (and once a tush) into the soft mud.

Miller's Farm10
Miller's Farm3
Miller's Farm11

Milani is brave.  There isn't much that scares her, and aren't many things she isn't daring enough to attempt.  I mentioned that the slide is quickly surpassing the swings as her favorite playground attraction, and I'm not only talking about the mini, little kid slide.  No, sister doesn't discriminate.  She'll ride the mini slide, then the tallest straightest fastest one, then the spiral, making her way back through the lineup.

Miller's Farm8
Miller's Farm5-Edit
Miller's Farm9
Miller's Farm7

So I'm not entirely sure why I hadn't anticipated that she would come flying down one of the long, fast tube slides at Miller's.

 Miller's Farm1
Miller's Farm2

She didn't even pause, in fact, she caught me completely off guard the first time she came cruising down, shooting out the bottom long before I was prepared to catch her.  And her awkward landing didn't deter her in the slightest from taking the plunge again, and again.

Miller's Farm12
Miller's Farm15-Edit
Miller's Farm14

We watched the boys debate and negotiate their pumpkin selection until they unanimously selected the most gigantic pumpkin of the bunch.  And we devoured the apple cider doughnuts that Ariana graciously shared with us. Next time we'll take a trip on the hayride and make sure to bring some extra apple cider doughnuts home, but all in all it was a perfect first fall adventure.


Bath Time Funny Faces

If you ask Milani if she'd like to get in the tub, her answer is always an enthusiastic head nod as she heads for the stairs and hightails it toward the bathroom.  I have yet to see her turn down a bath invite.  She loves sloshing around in the tub, dumping water from one cup to another, stomping and splashing and making puddles.  Her enjoyment and happiness, as she plays in the water, are so pure and simple that they're infectious.  And her faces are so expressive and charismatic, it's nearly impossible to watch her play without smiling and laughing along with her.

Milani's "Squeeze the Washcloth" Face

While bath time is one of my favorites because it's a sure bet to put girlfriend in a good mood, always littered with giggles and grins, I've grown to cherish the purity she radiates through everything she does.  Whether she is excited and happy, or angry and having a total meltdown, she is always honest and genuine.  She feels every emotion and sees it through, spends time with it and then moves along. There's never an internal struggle to change the way she feels, or stuff an emotion down so she doesn't have to deal with it.  She doesn't pass judgment or wonder what anyone else will think about her emotions.  I have room to learn from her honesty, to be authentic with myself and my emotions the way our little ones are before they learn from us that certain emotions are better kept bottled up.  I hope she will keep that innocent joy in her heart and authenticity in her soul, that she will always be in tune with the honesty of her feelings, and keep making funny faces in the tub.


Downtime and Funtime

It's so easy to get swept away in the daily grind, to get caught up in the errands and the chores, and fall into a rut, and I try to remind myself often that I have control over how each of Milani's days unfold.  I determine whether we'll spend the day at home, playing with blocks in the living room, or at the playground in the fresh air, or on an adventure with the Mom's Group to the butterfly house.

Don't get me wrong, I truly believe that the substance of life, the real beauty, is often found in the unplanned, the in between, the downtime.  That many of life's most sparkling moments are nestled right in front of us among the familiar details of an ordinary day.  Milani is so laid back, she is completely content scattering crayons across the living room floor, collecting them back into the bucket and dumping them out again.

Graffiti a la Milani (i.e. mom fiddling with the camera and not paying enough attention)
"What's the problem with the graffiti?  Michelangelo painted on the ceiling."

Building towers with her blocks, dressing up in her favorite hats, and loving on her stuffed animals.


She can kill an hour engrossed with a box of plastic silverware, and some days these quiet afternoons at home are restorative and relaxing.  Sometimes they are exactly what we both need.

But some days we need an adventure, a little bit of excitement, something so special that as Milani drifts to sleep at the end of the day she is thinking "Man today was a great day!"  Sometimes it's fresh air and sunshine we're craving, and the way a couple hours at the playground leave us both breathless and happy.

The view looking down (and I had to bend forward to even see my feet)                                                The view looking up.  Love this tree!                       

Sometimes it's a meet up with the Mom's Group, an activity we wouldn't normally do on our own, and the good company of other moms and tots.  Last week we visited the Steamtown National Historic Site.

Steamtown Trainride3
Steamtown Trainride5-Edit

We tried on the conductor's hat and wandered around the museum checking out the old steam engines and poking our heads into the train car displays.

Steamtown Trainride33
Steamtown Trainride36-Edit

We took a short ride on the train, and watched out the window as old passenger cars and modern freight box cars decorated with graffiti passed by in the train yard.

Steamtown Trainride20
Steamtown Trainride22-Edit
Steamtown Trainride18-Edit

We nibbled on goldfish and pretzels and listened as the guide described how these tracks years ago would have carried eager travelers to New York City dressed in their finest.  Milani would glance back from her perch at the window to throw me an excited grin, or a fish face kiss, and by the end she had the "Choo Choo" nailed.

Steamtown Trainride27
Steamtown Trainride29-Edit

It's those moments, when I catch sight of her face all lit up, that reaffirm why we scramble to devour our cheerios and get ourselves dressed in the morning.  Why we pack our bags full of peanut butter and jelly sandwiches and goldfish snacks and water bottles and cameras, and scurry out the door to get to a meet up; that fish face kiss makes it worthwhile.  

Happy Weekend!

Catching up With the Calendar

Somehow, in the midst of September's doctor appointments and ultrasounds, summer managed to slip quietly out the back door without my even noticing.  The seasons have shifted and the page of the calendar has turned to a new month, and I find myself desperately needing to catch up with it all.  To recognize the adventures we've had during those final weeks of summer that managed to get tossed aside and left behind in the craziness.


Fair Season

One of the first hints that summer is near its end and autumn lies closer than I even realize, is the arrival of the Harford Fair. Each year Jon's company sets up a stand, and on the days that Jon has fair duty I tag along to keep him company.  The tent sits directly across from the bingo hall, and all afternoon we hear "B4, that's B4...N15, that's N15"  Bingo letters and numbers float around in my dreams on the nights after I spend an afternoon at the fair.

Wy Co Fair6

Last year Milani was only three months old, and she slept for most of the afternoon on a quilt in the corner of the tent, but this year she wanted to go, go, go.  We walked and walked, checking out the rides, and greasy food stands, the tractors and farm animals.  As we were toddling steadily along the walkway, Milani did an abrupt 180 and hightailed it in the opposite direction.  It took me a minute to figure out what caused the about-face when I noticed a yellow balloon in the sea of people ahead, bobbing along behind a little boy.  Sister had her sights set, and she was closing in, fast!  We asked the boy's mother where they got their balloon, then marched straight to the People's National Bank stand to score our own.

Harford Fair5-Edit
Harford Fair3
Harford Fair4

Milani could entertain herself for hours with a balloon.  She talks to it, strings it along like a close friend, and tugs on the string to reel it in for a hug.  With balloon by her side she climbed bravely up the stairs of the empty grandstand.

Harford Fair10
Harford Fair15
Harford Fair16-Edit
Harford Fair14

We also visited the Wyoming County Fair, where Milani fostered an instant attraction to the carousel.  She stood in awe, pointing and squealing at the horses as they bobbed past.  Oddly enough she was most interested in the only non-horse, weird rabbit creature on the entire ride.  She would search it out and point to it, making sure I saw, every time it passed.  So we got her little hand stamped, and she and Jon went for some rides.

Wy Co Fair1
Ang On Carousel
I had to throw this one in for comparison.  The apple doesn't fall far.
Wy Co Fair5-Edit
Wy Co Fair8
Wy Co Fair7-Edit

We stayed until the sun sank well below the horizon and the sky deepened to a rich navy.  The rides cast a glow that could be seen for miles as we drove toward home on winding roads with an exhausted, sleeping baby in the back seat.

The Butterfly House

With the Mom's Group, Milani and I took a trip to visit the Creekside Gardens Butterfly House.  The house, a wooden frame covered in netting and filled with butterflies and gorgeous flowering perennials, was nestled in the gardening center surrounded by eclectic planted urns and hanging baskets.

Butterfly House18
Butterfly House1

Inside the house, we learned about the life cycle of the butterflies, and the kids got a sugar stick to attempt to attract and feed a butterfly.  Milani was content to stick close to my side and watch the butterflies eat watermelon.  Every now and then she would trow a peek back in my direction, looking for feedback as to whether she should be excited or entirely wigged out by the butterflies.

Butterfly House7
Butterfly House3
Butterfly House5-Edit
Butterfly House4

After leaving the butterfly house, we spent some time in the children's garden, surrounded by eclectic, colorfully whimsical welded creatures, and some bubbling stone fountains.  Milani loaded truck after truck full of pebbles from the pebble garden.  Scattered throughout the ordinary, gray pebbles were pretty, colorful, polished rocks.  Stumbling upon one was like discovering hidden treasure and made all the digging and hauling of rock even more rewarding.

Butterfly House14-Edit
Butterfly House12
Butterfly House9-Edit
Butterfly House11
Butterfly House10-Edit

Creekside Gardens hosted a butterfly release event at the end of September, and all the little butterflies began their long, fall migration south to Mexico.  We will definitely be visiting the butterflies, and the children's garden again next year.


Right about the time my inner world was erupting into turmoil, bubbling over with the fear and anxiety of my pregnancy issues, when ultrasound after ultrasound were dumping entirely too much emotional weight for me to process, the skies dumped entirely too much water for the river to handle.  My inner turbulence was eerily reflected in the rising, brown, angry water that spilled over the banks.  So many neighbors, people living within walking distance from my house, found their homes or businesses flooded, completely destroyed.


My heart breaks as I drive through these areas and see the piles on the curbs of damaged belongings that used to be parts of the homes, and see people courageously and desperately working to regain their footing, and their lives.  It makes me wonder why these things happen, why disastrous and heartbreaking circumstances surface in our lives.  I really can't come up with the why but I have come to believe the truth in the fact that what doesn't kill us does indeed make us stronger. 

Maybe when we struggle through a pregnancy, or loss, or flood we are actually being given a precious opportunity to rise up and overcome.  To unite with one another and become stronger individually and as a community.  To arrive at a place with more wisdom and richness and a greater reverence for life than the place we left behind. 

 Sunny September Sunday

The last Sunday in September was gorgeous.  The skies were powder blue with gorgeous white clouds, and the sun was warm on our skin.  We spent the afternoon enjoying the fresh air at the playground. 

Playground and Gardening2-Edit

Milani is fearless at the playground, climbing rock walls and crossing wobbly bridges, and while the swings are still her favorite the slide is quickly gaining ground.  It doesn't matter how steep or fast, she flies down with an open mouth grin.

Playground and Gardening3-Edit

At home, we spent the rest of the day in the yard and the garden.  It's always a little sad to see the end of the season drawing close, knowing that all the planting, and weeding, and harvesting is about to end.  To watch the tomato plants slowly turn brown, and to know that we might only get a handful more cucumbers and peppers before the first frost.  

Usually Milani just wanders around the garden popping green cherry tomatoes off the plants and into her mouth, trampling anything in her path.  This time she took a sincere interest in the soil.  She found a spade and cultivator and meticulously moved dirt from one spot to the next, her concentration unwavering.  

Playground and Gardening7
Playground and Gardening5-Edit

It's so heartwarming to watch her gain interest in the things that I find rewarding.  I will always give her to space to nurture her own individual interests, but won't mind if she digs barefoot in the dirt next to me every summer.

Playground and Gardening12
Playground and Gardening8-Edit

The crispness on the breeze and changing leaves are unmistakable, autumn is in full swing and I can't say that I'm disappointed by summer's end.  I certainly love the hot, sunny summer days and all the fun we've had this year, but for some reason I am most optimistic, happy, and at peace in the fall.  I love the colors, and the weather, and anything that tastes like pumpkin, and I am ready to embrace this new season.


Holy. Emotional. Roller coaster.

The last two weeks have chewed me up and spit me out, leaving me entirely uncertain whether I'm coming or going, right side up or balancing on my head. I've drifted between being distraught, worried, happy, relieved, and back around to each one at least twice more.

For the entire first half of this pregnancy I felt pretty amazing.  When people asked how I was feeling, my usual response was "I almost don't even feel pregnant".  That's honestly how good I felt, and believe me I thanked my lucky stars every day that I wasn't battling morning sickness, or serious fatigue, or the debilitating migraines that plagued the first trimester of my pregnancy with Milani.

Then we arrived at the half way point, twenty weeks, and my ultrasound confirmed that our little one was developing beautifully.  It also revealed that my cervix was a little short for how far along I was in the pregnancy, and although I dreaded hearing it, I wasn't surprised.  I've known all along that I am prone to encountering this obstacle.  In defense of my poor cervix, it's been through the ringer in the last handful of years, racking up a laundry list of risk factors, each increasing the likelihood of a weakened cervix, most of which are well out of my control.  And while the findings of the ultrasound weren't fantastic, they weren't particularly dreadful either, warranting only that I pay attention for any contractions, cramping, or pressure, and a follow up ultrasound to check on things.

That was the hinge, the turning point in the pregnancy.  That was when I went from "I almost don't even feel pregnant" to a tentative "I'm feeling pretty good".  When every pang, and twinge, and sensation set off a panic alarm; Was that a contraction? Is this preterm labor? Would they consider that "pressure" and how much "pressure" is normal? I mean I have a baby suspended in mid air above my cervix OF COURSE I feel some pressure!!!

I walked on eggshells, wondering if I was doing too much, pushing myself too hard, lifting Milani too often, weakening my tender cervix with every sneeze.  My mind raced, every possible negative outcome crashed around my skull, and truth be told, I'm certain most of the discomfort I was feeling in my body originated in my head.

The follow up ultrasound showed that my cervix had shortened further, and that's when the emotional roller coaster gained serious momentum.  I went from the ultrasound to my midwife's office where she reported flatly that I would need to report immediately to Labor and Delivery to be monitored over the next twenty four hours for contractions, and administered steroids to stimulate the baby's lung development in case of premature delivery, and started on antibiotics in the case of any infection.  Upon discharge I would need to remain on strict bed rest.  She said things like "This is when we pull out the Big Guns" and "If the baby were born tomorrow, it would be viable but would have a loooong stay in the NICU" and "We'll try to get you to twenty eight weeks, and if we make it there we'll try for thirty weeks".  She made it sound tragic, and dire, and certain that I would have a two pound preemie on my hands in no time.  And I melted, sobbing, into her big leather chair.

So I reported to Labor and Delivery, stat, where the nurse told me that the Doctor under whom the Midwife practices had called over, and that he wasn't nearly as concerned.  He had told them to hold off on the steroids, and antibiotic, and that I may not even need to stay overnight.  The panic, and anxiety loosened a little, the fear weakened, I could breathe a tiny bit easier.  I spent a couple nerve wracking hours attached to monitors, awaiting the doctor and his verdict, my sentencing.  When the doctor finally arrived he confirmed that he wasn't terribly worried, and that while he wasn't prescribing bed rest, he cautioned that I needed to find a way to slow down, rest more, take it easier, and tune into my body.   He warned that if I pushed too hard and found myself hooked back up to monitors in Labor and Delivery again it would mean absolute bed rest, and steroids, and the big guns for certain.  I was discharged and set free, and was never more uncertain of anything as I was leaving the hospital.

The Midwife had sounded the alarm, and the Doctor had extinguished the flames, and this was the health and life of my sweet little babe being volleyed around, and I had no idea what I should or shouldn't be doing.  No idea who's opinion was more sound.  No idea what exactly it meant, or how to rearrange my life so that I wouldn't end up back in the hospital.

I can admit that one of the main sources of stress on me physically, is work.  I run laps around the restaurant, refusing to say no to anyone or anything, refusing to let my pregnancy slow me down, ever determined to prove (mostly to myself) that I can pull my weight and do it all, bulging belly or not.  I wasn't even convinced that I really needed to stop.  Maybe if I just drop a shift, or try not to work on consecutive days, but I think God or the Universe or whoever is keeping track of our fate and destiny knew that I needed to drop the gig, and so people and circumstances intervened in my life and aligned, resulting in my leaving work.  I keep telling myself that it's for the best, the health of my baby is nothing to gamble with, and that I must need to be spending this time with Milani and Jon, that it may just be a blessing in disguise.  And I fight the urge to carry a banner with "I AM NOT WEAK!" blazoned in neon, because although there are some who would relish the opportunity to be excused from the daily grind, it is far easier for me to work through backaches and swollen feet, than to admit that it's probably best that I stop working and appear like a fragile pregnant lady who can't hack it.  It all circles back to that stubborn and irrational need to prove (mostly to myself) that I can do everything.

Then comes the irony, that after another visit to another doctor for yet another opinion and just one more ultrasound for good measure, I am told that I have basically nothing to worry about.  That yes my cervix is a little short, but not short enough that this doctor would ever have even brought it to my attention.  It makes my head spin, really, to think these three practitioners could have such varying takes on the length of a cervix.  To think that I might not really have had to stop working, or perhaps this all transpired because, for some reason unknown to me, it's still best for me to be spending this time at home, taking it easier. 

So, maybe I'll be picking up some shifts at work, but certainly I'll be taking it down a notch, because this whole escapade was nothing if not a wake-up call to cool it a little, and listen to my body.  I'm relieved to know that I'm not in the danger zone, and feeling better by the day.  While I'm past the "I almost don't even feel pregnant" phase (because every cell in my body feels pregnant, if the massive bump weren't enough of a clue) I am definitely feeling pretty good, and I guess I'll never really know whether it's the result of my time off from work, or the peace of mind I've gained allowing my body to relax.  Either way, I'm keeping my fingers crossed and knocking on wood that this roller coaster has passed all its loops, and dives, and that I'll be coasting smoothly right up to my due date.

Sweet Anticipation

Baby Bump-002.jpg

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.

Baby Bump-008.jpg

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!

The Good, The Bad, and The Ugly

There is a delicate silver line that I gingerly tiptoe each time I gather my thoughts, photographs, and emotions together to write a post.  I snap the pictures, string together the words, and publish the posts to stretch my creative muscles, let family and friends eavesdrop on our corner of the world, and create a keepsake of the way we pass our days.

On one side of the line is honesty, truth and transparency, and in that respect I desperately want my posts to accurately reflect our lives.  On the opposite side is gratitude, optimism and discretion, and I find it refreshing and uplifting to challenge myself to seek out the beauty that is abundant in my life amongst a world rife with heartbreak and disappointment.  In this post, blogger Susanna Conway vents her frustrations about the lack of grit and honesty in the blogging world, and one of my favorite blog authors, Kelle Hampton, defends her rose colored glasses here arguing that Van Gogh chose not to paint toilets and dumpsters.

So I've been searching for the balance in my posts between finding the silver linings and painting an honest picture.  I am making an effort to view my life through rose colored glasses and find little miracles to be grateful for.  I have also been choosing not to focus on the negatives, insecurities and shortcomings.  I'm not in the market for smoke and mirrors, embellishment, or illusions of grandeur nor am I interested in airing my dirty laundry, complaining about small misfortunes, or showcasing my toilets and dumpsters.

Just in case my tendency to favor writing about the brighter side of life has anyone fooled into thinking I do it all, have it all figured out, or that I never have a bad day, here is a sample of the good, the bad, and the ugly; There are often dirty dishes in my sink (and on my counter, and kitchen table).  For the past three days I have rummaged through a basket of clean laundry for underwear rather than folding it and putting it away.  Given the choice, I will always pick time playing at the park, in the backyard, at the library, or farmers market over any sort of productive housework.  I rarely use Milani's nap time to get any respectable work done, if I'm not snuggled up next to her napping myself, I'm usually editing photos, reading, writing or (gasp) facebooking.  There was cat yak on the carpet in my bedroom for the better part of today (I swear it's easier to clean up once it dries.)  Jon can attest that its not at all uncommon for me to me to deliver an Oscar Award wining meltdown, and I am notorious for igniting my Italian fury and provoking a good fight.

Not so long ago I would rather have walked on nails than admit any those details even to myself,  and consider it a huge accomplishment to be able to embrace the gritty truth about myself.  I have to declare it a major victory over the nagging voices in my head that try to convince me that I should be investing huge amounts of energy and time into keeping a tidy house, and a level head.  I'm finally learning that a spotless house and perfect organization are not what make me a good mother or wife.  Instead it's the ability not to sweat the small things, to sweep the crap under the rug, and take the time to enjoy the million tiny sparkling moments that add up to a rich life.  I'm determined not to let them slip past unnoticed while I'm elbow deep in dishwater, or whining about the things that don't go my way.  So I'll keep putting off the mundane chores in favor of tea parties, and picnics, and afternoon bike rides;  I'll continue finding the silver linings and brilliant lessons hidden in the crappiest of days;  I'll continue carefully selecting the most exquisite moments to capture in pictures and words; And I'll continue my effort at being self-deprecatingly honest about the fact that, let's face it, I've got loads of room for improvement.  I guess I will keep teetering on my fine line serving up a heaping portion of optimism and humble gratitude, with a side of blatant reality.

And in an effort to divert the attention from the smoldering pile of wreckage I unloaded above;


I cannot get enough of this girl!

 State Park Pool19
State Park Pool8-Edit
State Park Pool9
State Park Pool37-Edit
State Park Pool46-Edit
State Park Pool36
State Park Pool49

I can't kiss her enough or hug her enough.  Can't hold her closely enough or breathe in deeply enough the sweetness from the top of her head.  And it seems as though every single thing she does is mesmerizing, and entertaining, and endlessly spellbinding to me.  I want to sear every moment and every image into my brain, because I never want to forget exactly the way she looks as she eats her bananas or tediously teeters across the room on wobbly legs. (Note to self: take more videos)

State Park Pool20
State Park Pool64-Edit
State Park Pool95
State Park Pool50

When I break out the camera, my trigger finger goes insane. 

State Park Pool89

I have to capture her laughing.

State Park Pool16

And studying the other kids with a furrowed brow.

State Park Pool21
State Park Pool24-Edit
State Park Pool22

And doing her twisting twirling version of a ballet performance on the ground.  I don't want to miss anything.  Which is why I end up with 241 pictures every time and wonder how I will ever narrow them down to the handful I end up posting.

Nothing beats watching her figure out her world.

State Park Pool77-Edit
State Park Pool31

As she swishes her hands back and forth in the pool for the first time, or tastes the water, or fills and dumps out her blocks, it's as if I'm seeing the world for the first time through her eyes.

State Park Pool29-Edit
State Park Pool108-Edit
State Park Pool123-Edit

Everything is fresh, and interesting, and warrants further exploration.  And when my girl smiles, lookout, because everything is suddenly right in the world and I expect the heavens to open and angels to sing.  Ok, that may have leaned a touch on the melodramatic side, but I just can't get enough of this girl!

State Park Pool33

On Heartbreak and Gratitude

Heartbreaking things happen to good people.  It's a fact that I hate.  I hate knowing that a friend is hurting, and knowing there's nothing I can do to help.  My heart is heavy and saddened.  But in the sad, painful times, I am reminded to embrace the blessings I have.  To lend a hand or an ear or dollar.  To hug like I've never hugged before.

I couldn't help but notice what a beautiful day it was.  The sun glistened before a powder blue sky.  Soft white clouds drifted in the breeze.  The trees were waving and bowing.  And if I had to guess, I'd say that the reason it was so lovely outside was because the heavens fondly welcomed a superstar with the warmest of embraces.  He's peaceful, and happy, and radiating his love from above so that his family can be sure he arrived safely.  So I will lift my face to the sky, and offer up my love and deepest gratitude.

My gratitude for the beauty of the season.
20110502-flowers and playground-228-Edit
20110502-flowers and playground-249-Edit
20110502-flowers and playground-232-Edit
20110502-flowers and playground-245
20110502-flowers and playground-235-Edit
20110502-flowers and playground-241
My gratitude for getting to spend afternoons with my bug.  Enjoying the playground.  Enjoying her company.
20110503-flowers and playground-259
20110503-flowers and playground-266
20110503-flowers and playground-268-Edit-2
20110503-flowers and playground-274
20110503-flowers and playground-276
20110503-flowers and playground-271-Edit
20110503-flowers and playground-283-Edit
20110503-flowers and playground-301
20110503-flowers and playground-308-Edit
My gratitude for my family and my friends.  And for the blessing of getting to share my life with them.

Unfortunately I can't erase the heartbreaking, painful experiences in life, but I will notice how they make the good moments sparkle.  I will notice how they make me pause, and savor every second.

Love you M.

The Best Kind of Days

I can hear the low rumble of thunder off in the distance, and the constant pattering of the rain on the roof and window.  The wet swooshing of tires on the street.  The clock is telling me it's almost 10 am but the house is dark.  The lamp on the dresser is blanketing the room softly in a warm golden light.

The rain is falling steadily in silvery sheets.  The sidewalk is adorned with shiny puddles and the garden is soggy.  Tiny beads race one another down the window. Even the warm  breeze smells saturated.
20110428-untitled shoot-92-Edit
20110428-untitled shoot-96-Edit
On days like today I always feel like baking.  Something about the smell of warm chocolate chip cookies, and the heat from the oven that combats the dampness.  Except that I know that I'm out of chocolate chips.  Someone ate them little by little, by morsel and by handful.  I wasn't able to capture her picture in the act...my hands had been full at the moment.
20110428-untitled shoot-107
It's a good day for pulling things out of drawers.
20110428-untitled shoot-116-Edit
20110428-untitled shoot-120-Edit
20110428-untitled shoot-124-Edit
And playing in drawers.
20110428-untitled shoot-74
20110428-untitled shoot-76-Edit
And the best kind of day for napping.
20110428-untitled shoot-129
20110428-untitled shoot-126-Edit
20110428-untitled shoot-135
Sometimes these days, the ones that seem ordinary and uneventful, are the best kind of days.  They come quietly and slip past subtly, but they leave me feeling cozy and content.

Normal day, let me be aware of the treasure you are.  Let me learn from you, love you, bless you before you depart.  Let me not pass you by in quest of some rare and perfect tomorrow.  Let me hold you while I may, for it may not always be so.  One day I shall dig my nails into the earth, or bury my face in the pillow, or stretch myself taut, or raise my hands to the sky and want, more than all the world, your return.  ~Mary Jean Iron

Uniquely Beautiful

I am the type of person who has a stream of continually shifting and evolving interests.  All of which I enjoy.  None of which I am particularly good at.  One day I want to be a seamstress, the next, a photographer.  I want to craft and decorate, bake and knit.  I want to perfect the art of being a mother, wife, daughter, sister, and friend.  I wear many hats in an assortment of hues.

And as I set out to learn my new skill du jour, and devour page after page of sewing patterns, photography tutorials, recipes, craft and decorating ideas, and mom blogs, I sometimes find myself quickly descending from I wish I could take a stunning photograph like her to She is so much better at life than I am!  I drift pathetically into the murky grey waters where my own life stops seeming adequate enough.  Where I stop seeming adequate enough.  Floating along playing the If only I were as good a seamstress…or photographer…or mom game.  The She has the perfect hair…body…career…house…life! game.

Sometimes it's easy for me to talk myself down, and let all sorts of imagined shortcomings fill me with anxiety.  And as a recovering perfectionist and people pleaser, I get to feeling that I have to become an expert in every area of interest. 

This is when I force-feed myself a hearty helping of reality.  None of these other amazing and inspiring women who write the recipes, articles, tutorials, and blogs are perfect.  They aren't experts at everything, or even pretending to be.  They are just waking up every day, comfortable in their own skin, basking in their own uniquely beautiful lives.  Learning as they go.

It isn't even a matter of looking for the silver linings in my life, because I'm living under nothing but clear blue skies!  In those inevitable moments of doubt and insecurity, I am reminded to live purposefully and present within my own life.  To marvel at the daily miracles that grace my world.  To live and learn, laugh and love.  I have a beautiful baby bean and a loving and kind husband.  An amazing family with its own lovely quirks, and friends who are no less than exquisite.  A job, a home, and my stream of continually shifting and evolving interests. All of which I enjoy.  None of which I am particularly good at, but all contribute to who I am and my uniquely beautiful life.

Today the miracles that are gracing my world;

These golden beauties blossoming out of bulbs that for the last two years produced nothing but leaves;
And the buds that are unfolding into blossoms to decorate every tree limb;
Our first afternoon spent in shorts.  The warm spring breeze and blue sky.  The sun kissing our cheeks and sidewalk masterpieces.
This stunning chalk flower courtesy of Justin.
Bubble goatees
And bedtime kisses.
That's right, the sky is blue and the miracles are bountiful.

Resting and Replenishing

Today I am tired.  My well seems dry and resources depleted.  I can't decide whether it was the long and busy week that just ended, or the longer and busier week that lies ahead that is sucking out every last drop of energy and motivation.  I'm sure it's a combination of both. All of my shoulds and to-do's are weighing heavily on my spirit.

It feels like I am swimming with all my might to cross the river, and I lift my head for a gulp of hair, and in that moment I catch a glimpse of the other bank and think "My God, am I only half way?!" 

And it is in times like these that I wonder what example I should be setting for Milani.  Is it a better virtue for her to watch her weary mama set her jaw, dig in her heels, and will herself through a to-do list so that some laundry might get folded or some of the house straightened?  Or for her to watch me unplug and disconnect from the day-to-day, and curl up under the cool white sheets next to her to rest and replenish?

In this quiet moment it occurs to me, Milani doesn't need to be taught to rest and replenish.  It comes naturally to her.  She wakes up in the morning and plays hard, and crawls hard, and laughs hard, and when her body tells her that it needs a break, she naps hard.  It isn't a question or debate, it just is.  It makes perfect sense.

She doesn't paddle harder to cross the river faster, nor does she stop and sink.  Nope, girlfriend just flips over and floats, and lets the current take her in the right direction.  And once recharged, she picks up right where she left off.  She can teach me something everyday if I remember to pause and listen.

So today I will nap.  I will struggle to ignore the voices telling me I should be cleaning, or folding, or straightening.  I will remind myself that there is virtue to be found in knowing when to unplug and disconnect.  And I will offer up the fondest gratitude that I am fortunate enough to have the opportunity to snuggle with my ladybug at 1 in the afternoon.  

I nurse Milani as she grows drowsy.  Her eyelids get heavier, and her breathing slows and deepens.  I move her delicately onto the bed and slip under the covers next to her, my legs curl beneath her so she sleeps in my nook.  I can feel her breath on my cheek.  Moses snores in the corner, the fan hums, and traffic outside swooshes over the wet pavement.  I close my eyes and exhale melting into the cozy mattress, there is nothing better than this.

**Sorry no pictures today, I find that I can only operate the camera while I'm awake...go figure**