survivng mamaland

Newborn fog

Slowly but surely, I feel I am emerging from the fog.  In the early days, a newborn is a welcome interruption to life’s most mundane tasks.  The laundry, meal prep, and house cleaning, though added to by the new addition, don’t call to me as much as my babe. And I am able to put them off to tend to her with little reprocussions.

Somewhere about halfway between there and now, i begin to long for order, rhythm, and, well, clean things.  And I attempt to reintegrate those chores back into normal life.  It takes a while to adjust as I tend to jump in rather blindly to all the parts plus a newest member who is still very needy.  So it takes me until about now to feel like life is working for me again.  And what a good feeling it is.

Consequently, I’ve had more time for hobbies and reading, two luxuries that greatly improve a life that doesn’t see very many things beyond the inside of a house on most days.

I have picked up a needle hoop embroidery project and I’m tending to it slowly, over the little tv I allow myself in the evenings, as long as my mind is not too tired and my eyes able to stay awake.

I have discovered the joys of audio books, a natural progression from podcasts.  It started when my subscribed podcasts weren’t updating quickly enough and I needed something filler in the interim. I then remembered the “free” subscription to Audible through Amazon prime and began exploring the free selections they had.  A TN friend clued me into Hoopla, a service of our public library, which has videos, e books, and audio books but never any wait time. These two things have kept my mind busy when my body is tired but things still yearn to be completed.


I worked on and recently finished the first ever top I’ve made for myself.  Ive had a brown knit gauze sitting in my stash for about 2 years now and couldn’t bring myself to get rid of it in the two purges my sewing room has been through.  Finally it called to me and I instantly envisioned what I wanted to make from it: something flowy and loose, similar to the boutique-y handmade tops that are so popular these days.  It was a simple stitch up, taking me about two naptimes to complete (which included a lot of thinking time since I wasn’t following a specific pattern).  Ultimately, though it has its flaws, I’m really happy with how it turned out.  I left the bottom un-hemmed, but serged, liking the way it hangs in a hi-low style.  The shoulders are low like many of the dolman styles I see in stores today. I added two different collars to the neck, but ultimately cut them off, serged, and turned under once for a simple , but light sitting collar.  Finally, I added a snap in the middle placket to keep it modest, but I love snap/button plackets for nursing.
I recently bought a brown, suede fabric remnant at one of my favorite local fabric stores during a sale and hope to turn it into something similar before winter’s out.  Just waiting for the right inspiration to strike, because as I’ve learned many times, if it’s not there, it’s not worth pushing through to find it.

At that same fabric store, I picked up a few lycra knits.  They are so stretchy and have the softest hand.  I already had some projects in mind for them, so I picked up a baby blue (things for my nephew first, then for the girls with what’s leftover) and a dusty pink.  I’ve already cut into the blue and turned out three items from it: a raglan dress for Sib, and a knotted gown and ringer tee for coming-soon-nephew.  (raglan dress and ringer tee patterns here).  My scan n cut was used to cut the iron-on vinyl decals.  I love a multi-layered project. So satisfying!

Tomorrow I will cut into the pink fabric.  I’ve got an open tab to see if I can find the #milliedress in English for free!

Also from that haul came an orange and white seersucker with navy blue embroidered bows.  That was turned into a bow tie for my neckwear loving N.  I dream of making a summer outfit for Sib out of the remainder.  Finally I picked up a pale yellow cotton, soft as silk.  Maybe a bubble romper or fluttery dress or two will come out of it, come spring.

As exercise is to the body, creating is to the mind.  A necessary diversion and a way to release the toxins from the social strata that keep creeping in.  Every afternoon that I get a few minutes to myself in my sewing room is a good day!

-smk

Daily Rhythms: Morning Routine

Having two toddling little ones, I have found most mornings it is actually easier to get out and stay out of the house until about lunch time.  This serves several purposes: 1) it keeps the house relatively picked up and clean, 2) it keeps the girls and I from going stir crazy and 3) it helps wear them out so they want to rest and relax when we come home.  We average about 3-4 mornings out a week, with at least one of the days in being my cleaning day.  Not every mom is wired this way and I totally get that.  Especially you that have older children (that play with each other!!) and more children (how do you do it?!).  I’m sure our morning routine will slow down a bit as the girls age and begin to self-entertain a bit more…but for now, this feels necessary.

On an IDEAL morning (meaning everything goes smoothly and according to plan), I am able to wake up, work out, shower, and dress before the girls.  We eat breakfast together, I look over my calendar for the day and prep dinner if need be.  The girls get dressed and then, depending on the day we either leave shortly after or if we have time, Bea takes a short hour nap while MG watches a show or does a school activity with me.

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Here are some of the ways we spend our mornings out:

(asterisk marks the ones that are free)

grocery store* This definitely eats up an entire morning but I like that it is an anchor in our week

mops / Bible studies Mops only runs through the school year but it is a nice outing on winter days when we’ve been cooped up for far too long

-playground* Even in our little rural community there are several area play grounds.  Bonus: these are a great place to meet other moms

-splash park* Sadly, no splash parks exist out here…yet.  For the ages of the girls, splash parks are a bit more manageable than pools when I’m single parenting, and I do miss their accessibility.  But there are a few within an hour’s drive if we are desperate

-field trips* In talking to a few other moms, we discovered a FREE field trip program that runs through the summer.  So far we’ve done the fire station, car wash, and airport…upcoming are the recycling center and zoo!

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-library* Ah, I can’t say enough good things about the library.  Isn’t it a wonderful resource?  Even out here we have three pretty good ones to pool from and we could find a free activity there just about every day of the week if we wanted to.  Story time, crafts, movies, science experiments, summer reading programs, all for FREE.

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-pool  Ours isn’t free but only cost $2 for all of us to get in, and thankfully our generous neighbors have had us over to swim a few times too.

indoor track* Probably only a resource we will have available in our current location, but it is AMAZING…especially in the dead of winter.  Having it as an outlet seriously got me through some dark days last winter

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-play dates* Always a nice way to spend a morning and a win for both parents and children.  There are tons of resources on FB to help connect you to a local group or you can start by asking around at your church or library

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-zoo/museums/local attractions

It’s amazing to me that even living out here in the rural cornfields there are still plenty of opportunities to get out and explore, mostly for free!   Anything I’m missing?  Let me know!

-smk

A Few of my Favorite Things {post-partem edition}

(disclosure: this post contains links to Amazon.com, of which I am now an Amazon Affiliate.  A (very) small portion of anything you purchase through these links comes back to me in the form of an Amazon gift card.  I figured since 90% of my online purchases come from there, it was about time.  Happy Shopping!  (for both of us 🙂)

Now that I’m a mom (again) and back in the swing of caring for a newborn, I’ve added a few favorite things to my list this year:

Beco Baby Carrier: this is similar in nature to an Ergo (which, admittedly, I’ve never tried) and the only difference I know of is that the baby can face BOTH out and in.  I LOVE this contraption! With MG, I just had an original Bjorn and it hurt my back and neck after only a few minutes of use.  With the Beco, I can wear Bea for an hour+ without feeling any different!  The strap that goes around your waist helps displace the weight and it is seriously amazing how much it helps.  I can’t say enough good things about it!

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-BOB stroller: For MG, we had the single, so we upgraded to the double when we found out Bea was on the way.  This stroller is quite pricey, but in my opinion–so worth it!!  I take the girls on a walk/jog just about every day and the ride is so smooth for them.  It is also made to go “off-roading” and believe it or not can still fold up and fit in the back of both of our cars.  The double is a bit more cumbersome and heavy than the single (obviously), but I still love it.  One of my favorite purchases!

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MealBaby: I would like to hug whoever created this website.  Once Bea came, one of my friends set up a page for N and I and people signed up to bring us dinner.  That means I didn’t have to plan, prepare or cook meals after having a baby.  Does it get much better than that???  Between that, leftovers, having family in town, and takeout, I haven’t had to make dinner since Bea’s been home from the hospital!!!   Considering we still have some of our stash in the freezer, I may just take a few more weeks off 🙂

-large, muslin blankets: of course everyone loves the name brand ones, but did you know that you can make your own?  I followed a VERY simple tutorial I found on Pinterest (follow me here)  and made my own for about $6 each (which is about 1/2 the price of the store-brand ones).  Make them to size and these blankets are just wonderful, especially for a warm-weather baby.  Performing multiple duties throughout the day from a nursing cover, to an emergency diaper change, to a swaddler.  Muslin, I sing your praises!

-Some other favorites  of ours (for newborns) include: MAM pacifiers, the Chicco Keyfit 30 carseat, zip up jammies or baby nightgowns,  glass bottles,

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(she took her first one on her 8-week bday!)

Boon grass drying rack, and headbands from The Pleated Polka Dot (see pic below)

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Those are some of my favorite must-have newborn products.  What are yours?

Life with Two

The other night I looked at N and said, “Wow, what did we do before these two?”  Our former life is growing dimmer in the memory.  Our current grows richer.

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Life with two is definitely complex.  It has challenged me in nearly every aspect of my life:  physically, spiritually, emotionally, I could go on and on.   There isn’t much room for me to be selfish right now and that has sharpened me.

And while I knew it would be demanding, especially physically,  I underestimated how mentally challenging it would be.  Just planning a simple outing requires mental prep the night before: thinking through what needs to be packed, coordinating times to wake up, understanding Bea’s feeding schedule and precisely how it will effect our time away. And then even more effort the morning of to carry it out.  This means I’ve had to say ‘no’ in the past 7 weeks a lot more than I normally do.  As much as I’d like to think that we are pretty flexible and adventurous, it doesn’t take much to throw a wrench in the plans.

DSC_0110 Because it feels like my hands are almost constantly FULL, I almost always have a running list in my head of what to do should a minute or two be spared in the day.  Wash hair, throw the sheets in the dryer, sweep the floor, scrapbook, water the plants,…there is always something  to fill in the gap when my hands unexpectedly find themselves empty.DSC_0071

But it’s not all challenging.

One thing that has made this go around a lot easier is having a built in entertainment system.  MG keeps both Bea and I busy.  Whereas I remember when MG was just a babe finding myself quickly running out of ideas to keep us both from being constantly on the verge of boredom.

Each girl has their own personality and set of demands. Where one is easier, the other is harder.  It is a constant ebb and flow that keeps you from having a favorite or resenting a challenger.

 

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DSC_0069And with every challenge met comes great rewards.  Watching the girls’ relationship develop has reminded me of this. It won’t be long before they are fast friends and I will just be a bystander cheering them on from the sidelines.

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But right now I am in the thick of it.  I am fetching pacis, snapping the tiniest of snaps, searching under beds for lost lovies, up to my ears in a constant cycle of laundry, keeping everyone’s tummy above empty, and answering the same question over and over and over.

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And I will very gladly spend and be spent for your souls; though the more abundantly  I love you, the less I am loved.  II Corinthians 12:15

I know I’m not the only mom out there that is feels like I am spending EVERYTHING to raise and grow these children.  It means I’ve given up my dream house, my perfect system of organization, my ideal body, my manicured hair and nails, my less-complicated marriage, my closet full of clothes that AREN’T childproof, my quiet days at the pool with a good book, my effortless vacations, my fulfilling career, EVERYTHING to mother.

And maybe someday some of those things will find their way back to me when I have more time and energy to devote to them.  But for now, I spend myself for these precious little souls.

Gladly.

 

Happy

This past weekend we watched the documentary Happy with my parents. Out of the movie came the family discussion “when were the happiest moments of your lives?”.

Two very easy answers came immediately to me: directly after the birth of each of my girls.

I don’t mean to make light of post partem depression by saying this, but I feel as though I am given the opposite effect.  Birthing babies and then having them in my house puts me in a state of bliss.

It is also easy to see the LORD smiling down on us in this time.

To hold a little being that is so fresh from His presence is a soulful experience.

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To care for another little person that is so completely helpless and to watch her change every day is truly a joy.

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To watch my little family grow and then be sealed together in an everlasting bond is much more than I can even take in right now.

My sweet MG has returned to us (the whiny version has temporarily left :)) and life feels so happy right now.

Towards Bea, she has been nothing but a  nurturing soul.

Here are some of the quotes from today:

“I love her, Mommy.  I love her hair.”

“Look, Mommy!”

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(her version of a double stroller) (her play has become much more inventive having lots of new actions to imitate)

“Aww..so cute!”

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“Don’t cry, Bea!  Mommy, I hold her hand so she won’t cry.”

“Mommy, smell her.” (to see if she needs to be changed)

This Mama heart is happy.

F.A.Q.’s (post-partem edition)

1) how’s it going?  well, all things considered, it’s going pretty well!  If you were to ask me now, of course with limited perspective only 9 days into it, I’d say the shift from zero to one is MUCH harder than the shift from one to two.  Granted, we are still in the honeymoon stage and Bea sleeps most of the day and night away, so I really can’t complain.  Plus, my level of confidence is much higher.  I’m relying more on intuition and less on Dr. Google.  Finally we’ve had lots of help from friends and family.   Meals dropped off, offers of help, + my sister and BIL came in town this weekend and really spoiled us.

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Sadly, Daddy returns to work tomorrow, so I guess that will be the true test.  But for now:

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An easy baby + second timer’s’ intuition + lots of help =an easy adjustment

2) how is MG doing?  she is doing so well.  She is a wonderful helper and nurturer.  She doesn’t get rattled when Bea cries and instead tries to help us figure out a solution (9/10 her solution is the paci :)).  She also still wants to help with every diaper change, retrieving items for me, and wants to hold Bea quite often.  Thankfully, the novelty hasn’t worn off yet.  She has not shown any aggression or jealousy towards the baby but she has acted out in other ways. She definitely has become very needy/whiny in other areas and we’ve seen some regression with the potty.  But I’ll take it considering everything else has gone so well!

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3) how is Bea eating/sleeping?  like a newborn!  She eats every 2-4 hours and sleeps like a log in between.  It is hard to keep her up during and a little after feedings during the day, but not a night.  She is somewhat of a night-owl, as I predicted :).  In the hospital, she showed some signs of reflux so we elevated her mattress and keep her upright after feeding her and the problem seems to have resolved.  Probably just normal newborn immaturity.

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When MG was born, having nothing to compare it to, I thought she was one of the easiest newborns.  This little one has been even more of a breeze.  A rare crier (I don’t think we’ve heard her full on cry ever).  She is soothed and put to sleep pretty easily and she eats very well too.  Her umbilical cord stump fell off on day 5 and she is almost out of newborn diapers.  Growing by leaps and bounds!

4) who does she look like?  well, like herself?  I can’t say that she really looks like either N or I, and I guess she looks a little like newborn MG.  Still, I was surprised when I first met her at how she didn’t really resemble any of us!   Now that it has been a few days, I think she will look more like me.  It will be fun to see how she grows and changes.

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5) what is the difference between the first and second?  this time around, my confidence is so much higher, my recovery has been so much better, and I’ve accepted a lot more support and help.  Less guilt, less worry, less anxiety.  Much more laissez-faire.    This has made a HUGE difference in my perspective and enjoyment of this time period.  Breastfeeding this time around, rather than feeling like a painful and taxing schedule, has been a welcome and quiet respite.  I’m also enjoying the huge appetite increase while watching the pounds slide away.  A very welcome change from the discomforts of pregnancy!

It also  already makes me sad to think about this time going by.  I has already gone by so fast with the days and nights coming together in one big blur.  As much as you are excited to see them grow and change, you hope it doesn’t go by too fast without memories recorded, pictures taken, and thoughts tucked away to be treasured later.

6) what is your favorite thing about her? okay no one really asks this, but my favorite thing about her is her silky black hair. I never thought I’d be blessed with anything but a bald-haired baby and both of my babies surprised us with a little (albeit a little) hair.  MG’s was a mahogany brown color, but Bea’s is this beautiful shade of black.

I love it and her so much.  My heart is full.

Surviving Mamaland: Consignment Sales (part ii)

Here is my first post about consignment sales.  And my second.

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One of my absolute favorite things to do every spring and fall is shop the baby consignments.   I started going to these back when MG was just a poppyseed in my belly and I’m still going strong.  I first heard about them when searching on Craigslist to find things like “baby bjorn” and started seeing them advertised.

Back in those days, I furnished much of MG’s wardrobe and found amazing deals on many baby essentials.  But what I didn’t know then is that there is a whole underground network of pre-sale passes that are such a hot commodity, you will find yourself meeting friends at a shady corner of a local gas station to exchange passes through the window (totally not at all like a drug deal).

Anyway, I got in totally legit  the night before the sale opened to the public during one  of the prearranged time slots.  Now you definitely don’t have to arrive at a presale time to get good stuff, but it is my favorite way to play.  I love the adrenaline of the long entry line, the frenzy of all the hormonal pregnant women, and the mad dash throughout all corners of the gym in search of the best deal on that one item on your list.

I have been very pleased that MG has adored all of the toys I have purchased at these things (still going strong with the singing teapot, pug purse, shopping cart, etc.)  and I’ve loved the discounted equipment and most especially the clothes.

This year, I walked away with: a Bjorn papasan lounger,

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a twilight turtle (lights up and shines stars on the ceiling)

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brand new tiny diners mat ($2) {parents, do you own these?  We have one and love it for eating out}! ,

a pottery barn brand boppy newborn head rest,

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and a leapfrog lap game + a few other electronic toys for car trips.

In the clothes department, I scored big in dresses for MG. (sidenote: moms of girls, don’t you just love dresses?  They fit through several seasons/sizes.  And now that MG is no longer wearing diapers, she’s having a hard time keeping her 24mo. pants up around her waist but they are getting too short around the ankles.  That means lots of dresses for us!)

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Nearly all of my takeaway included brand names like Mini Boden, Gap, and, Ralph Lauren.  I passed on a few Matilda Jane, tea,  and Mudpie that either weren’t the right size or price (fingers crossed, they’ll still be there on Saturday 1/2 price).

 My favorite being this smocked number which I definitely paid the most for ($10), but up here, these are few and far between…so you have to get while the gettin’s good.

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She also got shoes, sandals and stride rite sneakers for this summer.

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(her faves)

Mayby didn’t get too much but a few zippered sleepers in sizes we’re lacking and one Gymboree romper with matching hat and shoes (couldn’t resist).

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Finally, I scored big on some big bows for both girls that only cost me $2.

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 Al in all I spent just over $100 for everything. (which is my normal takeaway for these sales)

Another consignment sale victory for the books!

This Winter

We’ve seen a lot of indoor time.

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Usually I like to fill our time with  field trips and play dates, new experiences and old familiar ones.  But both the setting (potty training), weather (yuck), and all of the illness going around (double yuck) has kept us at home and at bay.

I thought I would hate it.

But I don’t.  I’ve thoroughly enjoyed our relaxed change of pace and I think MG has too.

Some of the ways we’ve filled our time:

rice play: There’s no denying this is a messy one, but worth it (IMO) for an hour of play time.  We scoop, dump, and pour it and take turn hiding things in it (like small animals).  If  you’re a texture person, like myself, it is almost a form of therapy

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water play: MG would happily play at the sink for an hour or more.  I turn the water on a low trickle and load her up with pots, cups, serving spoons, and more.  She loves to  “cook” at the same time I am.

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-imaginary play: cooking, kitchen, dolls, and cleaning.  She has “helped” me cook dinner (adding ingredients, stirring pots, setting the table), and clean.  When I grab my dust rag, she asks for one too and we happily wipe down surfaces together.

DSC_0029(She was really excited because she had just drawn a “snake” on the wood with the wet rag.  Totally picture-commerable-worthy)

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All of this help around the house has led to much more imaginative play with her own kitchen and “children” to care for. I love to see her imitation and her imagination at work.

-art: dot markers, regular markers, stickers, and crayons.  They have all been at request this month and she is starting to show a real interest in drawing pictures!  (last night she drew a “dolphin” for me :))

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turning things that aren’t toys into toys: (and bringing out old ones)

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My crafty cousin gave us these paper blocks-turned-picture puzzle a few years ago.  They have always set out as decoration, but I decided that MG was old enough to gently play with them.  Never mind she was several sets of blocks, because these were new and different, they totally excited her.

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After building several towers, she began sorting them in different containers.

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You can’t say that she doesn’t have somewhat of a perfectionistic gene hiding in there!

Along those lines, I also have some toys on rotation that stay hidden for days like these.   Every time they come out they are always a hit because they are like new!

And finally, we can’t leave out our stand-by friend: Play-doh

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We’ve also had a few nice days in between the February ones so we’ve been able to get out for a few walks and even a few play ground visits here and there.

And the best news of all??  Spring is just around the corner!  Would you all join me in a collective sigh of relief?

Surviving Mamaland: Best Piece of Advice

Being a mom means that you are a magnet for unsolicited advice.  And we all know it starts long before you are schlepping the baby around in a car seat.  Strangers, family members, friends, everyone wants to know…If you will be going back to work or staying home?  Breastfeeding or bottle-feeding?   Preschool or Threeschool?  Bumper or no bumper?  Pacifier or thumb?   Dr. Sears or BabyWise?  Loving your child or not?  (okay that might be a little outlandish, but the questions these people ask sometimes do make you wonder!)  And then they all have an opinion, story, or justification of what they, their daughter, or their best friend did (guilty!).

Truthfully, I don’t mind this advice.  I kind of looked at it as I was a new initiate into this club and all of the members were watching out for me.  Plus, I consider myself pretty independently minded.  So the opinion of Sal at the grocery store had little affect on whether or not MG would continue sucking her thumb.  And on the other hand, I carefully weigh the stories and opinions from all those important to me and felt like I made more informed decisions because of it.

So do you want to know out of all of the unsolicited comments and questions, the implications and wisdom,  my favorite piece of advice?

It came from a family doctor that attends our church.  We met him when we studied under him in a class and I was in the last stages of pregnancy.  After MG was born, and we finally felt comfortable taking her out in public, we ran into him at church.

He stopped us, gave the appropriate compliments, and then asked us, of course, how we were doing.  At the end, he said, “You know, often new moms are made to feel guilty because they are told to ‘enjoy this time while you can!’ {at this point, he had my full attention, this was something I constantly struggled with in the early days, trying to soak in and remember every single moment and detail and feeling it slipping away too fast} and then he continued, “But this is what I like to tell moms: ‘just be sure that you are taking pictures and videos and then someday you will be able to look back and enjoy those little moments over and over and you will have them forever.’  It takes away the guilt of not being able to enjoy every moment now and it allows you to enjoy those moments indefinitely later.”

And with that I was free. 

I took his advice (which was easy for me because I love taking pictures and videos anyway) and it is so true:  Those memories are so precious to me and  the best part is I will be able to enjoy them forever.

Later, I was in MOPS with his wife and she continued his advice, adding in: “By taking pictures and especially videos of your children, you are manipulating their memories.  They’ll look back at home videos and remember how fun that was!  and how golden my childhood was!  Just keep a video camera laying around in easy to access places and take videos of the everyday things and conversations.  Those are always the most fun to look back and watch.{like infamous capture of 3 year-old me holding my brand new baby sister and my parents saying, “We’ll get to keep her forever!”  and my face just falling into infinite disappointment}”

I just love that. 

One day, my dear MG, we will watch all the early accounts of your life together.  The first giggles and smiles, the nude laps around the house after your bath, the sloppy dinners, the first steps, and all of moments in between.  And I won’t remind you about the tantrums and sleepless nights and battle of wills.  Those will stay my little secret until one day when it’s your turn.  But until, just know that I will be in the process of creating a beautiful childhood for you to remember.

XO,
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