Berries, blooms, & babes.

One of my absolute favorite summer days last year was when we headed out of the city one day to see the sunflower fields in Maryland. In spite of new babies and all the hardness that brings- we decided to do it again this summer. Only this time…Summer2018-103…all the sunflowers had died after some crazy intense storms. The effect was slightly less than stunning. Summer2018-104Summer2018-105The kids however, didn’t really seem to care, and happily ran around the field. Summer2018-106Summer2018-121Summer2018-124New baby Beckett! Summer2018-133Summer2018-135Summer2018-136Summer2018-137Summer2018-138After a very short visit to the flowers, we headed to Homestead Farm. Picking berries with our kids was one of my absolute favorite summer outings last year. The farm is exactly what I want out of a self-pick farm, with everyone just free to roam, lots to pick, and animals to feed. This was also the point where I preemptively changed Henry’s shirt into one that wouldn’t show berry stains- not my first rodeo. Summer2018-140Summer2018-142I sadly don’t have a picture of it, but Anna’s husband came with us and pulled the kids around in this wagon, which Henry still talks about at least every day.Summer2018-147In the time it took to pick up our bucket, Henry also managed to secure an unauthorized peach and tomato. But in all fairness, he did devour both. Summer2018-148Summer2018-149Summer2018-150Summer2018-152Summer2018-153Summer2018-155Summer2018-162Summer2018-165Summer2018-168Summer2018-169A perfect summer day with my kids and some of their favorite friends. But more than anything, these pictures make me think of all the good ways that things have and haven’t changed in the last year. If you click here and scroll to the final pictures, you will see three almost identical to the last three above. Henry and his pals Mollie and Liv, covered in berries. But this time, the kids actually picked a lot of these berries, instead of just eating what Anna and I picked almost as fast as we could pick it. They were focused on their task, competent, and confident in exploring the fields. Henry and Liv weren’t really talking much last year, and Henry still preferred stanky leg crawling over walking. Now they had a constant chatter as they climbed through holes between rows of bushes. Parenting is the joy of watching these little people become themselves and I see so much becoming in the past year. Becoming braver and bolder and more observant and able to express all they see around them. Beyond those three sticky kids, Anna and I both had new babies strapped to us for the adventure- little lives who have become such big parts of our families and didn’t exist at all on last year’s outing.

So here’s to berries and blooms that weren’t there and babies who have showed up since last year and summer, and all the becoming and flowering and blooming that’s happened over the past year.

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This & That

Summer2018-73Summer2018-74Summer2018-77Summer2018-78Summer2018-79Summer2018-80I didn’t get around to any sort of official post for July 4th, but rest assured- we turned out in obnoxiously coordinated patriotic apparel like everybody else.  We grilled out with friends and James was insanely proud of how Henry can polish off corn on the cob (those Indiana roots!) whereas I was just proud that Etta slept through most of the evening so I could sit back and relax. We skipped the fireworks on the Mall and opted instead for some small fireworks and sparklers. Honestly, Henry probably preferred these and don’t let the shade he’s throwing above tell you otherwise.

And now, some random things that I’ve been reading, wearing, pondering, eating, etc.

We went blackberry picking recently and don’t worry – you won’t be spared those photos (eventually). I subbed blackberries for blues in this cobbler and it was the stuff of summer dreams.

As you can see above, we love corn. This looks absolutely amazing (corn! gnocchi! cheese!) but also something that maybe doesn’t fit into my desire to start trying to actually lose those baby weight (corn. gnocchi. cheese.). Might have to do it anyways.

Henry was given this book when he moved up in nursery classes at church and we love it. It’s super simple, but he gets REALLY into the actions and has started stumbling his way through reciting some of the verses. Always looking for ways to make Scripture a part of our daily lives !

Can’t stop thinking about this article, particularly this quote: “When a man tries to mistreat a woman- I’m not talking about violence, but the instinct to convey to her that she isn’t worth very much – he is unlikely to get very far with a woman whose father has made her feel that she’s worth a whole lot…. If you want to protect girls, find them good parents, or become them.”

Emily has been posting all sorts of things I love this summer, especially this list of play-based outdoor activities to keep toddlers and preschoolers busy. Also, she just had her third baby and somehow still blogs regularly and I’m like TEACH ME YOUR WAYS, because as you can tell, I have not yet figured out how to do pretty much anything other than partially survive.

I also found this article through her, about what your Meyers Briggs says about your mothering and it was fascinating.

Since I am in that awful and weird post part period where nothing fits, I decided to I invest in some inexpensive but cute transitional clothes in bigger sizes than I (hopefully) will wear longterm. Luckily, Target has a dreamy Madewell-knockoff line this summer. These are the shorts you’ve been searching for.

Happy weekend all!

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Days and weeks.

Summer2018-10Summer2018-54If our summer days are defined by chaos, they nevertheless have a sort of rhythm, a structure that provides at least a semblance of order in the midst of the unpredictability that comes with a newborn. Etta is still in that [WONDERFUL MAGICAL HEAVENLY] stage where she sleeps really late in the morning, and the goal is to be ready to leave as soon as she wakes around 9. I nurse her and then we try to get out as quickly as possible, trusting that the blissful combo of DC humidity and stroller motion will knock her out and keep her snoozing. We spend the mornings doing all of our favorite summer activities around Capitol Hill, visiting friends, hitting splash pads and parks, procuring treats, riding the metro, and coming home at the last possible minute before naps. I then devote myself to that special insanity that comes from trying to get two kids to nap (not on me) at the same time so I can have a few minutes “off duty,” to do really important things like watch the most boring season of The Bachelorette ever. (Pause to appreciate that I AM NOT WRITING A DISSERTATION DURING NAPTIME! I get excited about it every single day.) After naps, we usually head back outdoors until dinner, less from preference and more from necessity. From dinner until I finally slip into bed, there are various versions of chaos and trying to figure out the best way to get both kids ready for bed, trying to remember what worked the night before, and trying to have the house in some semblance of order at night. We have yet to find a truly successful method to accomplish this goal.Summer2018-25Summer2018-26

It’s crazy, and there are lots of really hard moments figuring out what I’m doing with two kids. But there are lots of really good moments too. I love summers in this city with Henry, love the sticky hands and sweaty faces and sun drenched days. I love watching Henry dote on his sister and eagerly want to help with her, even if his fervor for helping is not matched by restraint and I spend a lot of time issuing statements like “DO NOT pick her up!” or “She doesn’t want you to put her face in your armpit!” or “Henry, were teeth a part of that kiss you just gave?” or “She doesn’t understand that you are showing you love her by covering her face with toy cars!” or “Etta can’t digest that salami!” But yesterday there was a precious moment where they snuggled in his crib and he introduced her to his stuffed animals and then excitedly told her about what he had done with James over the weekend.

We are taking it day by day around here, and that is not my strength. I like to have a Plan, a long view of where we are going and how we are going to get there. This is especially true with baby schedules and sleep, and deviating from any sort of system rips apart at my sanity. When Etta wakes earlier than usual for a middle of the night feeding, I have been known to spiral into despair quickly, seeing our entire carefully mapped day unravel. I want the days to come with regularity, and frankly, they just can’t right now.Summer2018-64Summer2018-66

So we are taking it day by day. I have nursed her to get her to lengthen a nap while I chase Henry at the park or on the metro. Etta gets maybe one nap each day in the “correct” spot, and the majority of her sleeping happens in the stroller or the carseat or the stroller seat carried upstairs and propped in the kitchen sink because that’s the only secure place Henry can’t mess with it. It kills me a little, the way I can’t dig in and start establishing a schedule. But to do that I would just have to lock us inside and plop Henry in front of the TV all day and we aren’t willing to do that. So each day, each hour, each minute, I’m just doing What Works with a nod to What Is Needed in the longterm sleep and schedule goals department (and ironically- she is sleeping wayyyy better at night than Henry was at this age and naps are about the same, which is to say erratic and frustrating). I try to have her sleep at the right time, respect wake times, not nurse to sleep, etc, and for the most part- we succeed. But not always, and every time I need to “cave” on something to preserve the present peace of our day, I’m trying to see it is a victory, not a defeat. Day by day, I tell myself, let’s win today and figure out tomorrow later.

The days form patterns of wins and losses, steps forward and backwards, chaos and calm. It’s hard sometimes to zoom out and see the weeks. But that’s what I need to do, the doctor told me. I sat on the crinkly paper-covered table at my six-week postpartum appointment and couldn’t stop the tears from running down my face. Be honest, James had told me that morningPromise me that you’ll tell him how you are feeling. And I did. I told him about how much I was crying, about how I couldn’t control my emotions, about the darkness that sometimes swallowed up our sunny days. I told him that I felt sad and angry and unhinged, and I didn’t feel like this after Henry. He didn’t just tell me that it was normal, or that it was due to being tired- though obviously that is a part of it. He listened to me cry and talked with me about what we need to watch for and what we should do. Look at the weeks, he reminded me, Don’t be defined by the isolated days. Summer2018-36Summer2018-22And looking back at the past 8 weeks, I see lots of hard days, lots of bad moments, poor decisions, and failures. But those 8 weeks as a whole are so much more beautiful then all the amassed days. Each week moves closer to thriving, closer to regaining stability, even if naps are crappy and unpredictable and bedtime is a new variation of crazy every night. The past 8 weeks of being this new family unit have had so many fresh mercies and deep blessings, rising up beyond the dark days and hard moments. They show us learning to love, understand, and enjoy each other.

So we are taking it day by day and week by week and leaning in to trying to learn how to do this next stage of life in our family. Summer2018-68Summer2018-86

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Marietta Elizabeth.

153-EW062018This little nugget is a month old, and I’m finally writing a little bit about her birth, mostly so that I remember how it happened. I swear my brain didn’t totally fall out after Henry was born but this time- it is fried. Things I have forgotten lately include but are not to limited to my own address, times for doctor’s appointments, and basic words in the  English language.

I swore that this time, I would be a chill mom, calmly awaiting her child’s birth, instead of a crazy who was trying to have a baby early to make it to a wedding. But alas- I am just not a chill person. The waiting and uncertainty of when will a baby come kills me, and as I have absolutely no problem with highly medicated birth experiences (Pitocin for president), I started asking for an induction at 39 weeks at my very first routine appointment. Yes, I am such a gem. But since Henry’s birth was a couple weeks early and I was admitted at almost 7 cm dilated but with ZERO contractions, James and I were both nervous about having a baby in the car en route to our (rather far away) hospital.

Tangent which merits its own paragraph: I totally researched car births to be prepared, and my biggest takeaway was that you must call 911, even if you deliver yourself and then drive on somewhere. Without a record of an emergency call, some car cleaning companies will not clean your car, lest you be lying and you actually committed a homicide and are trying to hide evidence. You heard it here, Friends. Don’t say I never did anything for you. SPring2018-81

But I digress. When I tested positive for Group B Strep, my doctors joined the nervous ranks, cautioning me that I needed at least 4 hours of hospital labor receiving antibiotics before pushing. They decided that if I started my wild dilating sans contractions again, we might push for an induction early, which had me ECSTATIC. I was fully prepared to show up at my 38 week appointment, find out I was 5 cm dilated, and then breeze over to the hospital and get that epidural before nary a twinge of pain disturbed my serene soul.

The Saturday before said anticipated appointment was Henry’s birthday. Following the celebrations, I announced to James that we had to get ALL THE THINGS done, as it could be the last weekend I was pregnant. We cleaned out the fridge, took down and bleached the curtains (don’t be impressed- this is the first time I have ever done that and they were stained with red wine from a party two years ago), located the infant car seat, did mountains of purging and paperwork, and James packed a hospital bag, complete with all his toiletries. I laughed at him and how he would have to live out of it for the next couple days, but SPOILER- one of us did not have any shampoo at the hospital and I shall let you guess who.  James kept insisting that I was in a final nesting push, and I kept reminding him that I was just in a final procrastinating purge swan song. SPring2018-82

That night we were settled in for a good TV binge, and I was bemoaning my 8000 months pregnant miserable state that prevented any comfortable position. I kept having terrible back pain, and in a weird moment of clairvoyance, I texted our DC family to announce that I was so uncomfortable that I might just go to the hospital in the middle of the night. Please keep your phones off silent tonight, I begged, because I am definitely not in labor, but I sure am miserable. True, I had no frame of reference to know what a contraction was, but the hive mind of the internet told me it felt like a fist clenching, only that fist was your stomach, and I definitely had no tightening sensations.

At 2:30 am I woke up for my 6th pee of the night (because when someone tells pregnant women to “sleep now before the baby comes!” they are idiots who deserved to be punched in the face), and I felt so miserable that I did stretches in the bathroom, trying to relieve the terrible back pain. But then it kept coming back, and I spent the next hour trying to find positions that made it subside, succeeding, only to have it return. I glanced at my phone to see a text from my SIL in Sweden, who had just woken up for the day after dreaming I had had the baby, and I was like NOPE STILL PREGNANT… but I am having terrible pain that comes and goes… OH SNAP. (Do people still say oh snap? No, definitely not. )

But again, there was no fist tightening feeling, just crampy pain that would come and go and was thus to be ignored, until it got so bad that I was climbing out of bed with each ache. At that point I called my doctor, who confirmed that yes, this didn’t sound at all like contractions, but yes, my body is freaky deaky and no one knows how it contracts so maybe come in. SPring2018-78

It was go time. And James was not so sleepy that he didn’t look smug about his toiletry bag being ready to roll. I called my brother to come down and away we went to the hospital, predicting that we would be home in a couple hours and preemptively planning on skipping church and binging on McDonald’s breakfast sandwiches. But on the plus side, the drive that can take up to 2 hours took 35 minutes at 5 am with no traffic, which is good, since every wave of back pain (now 5 min apart) had me whacking the dashboard and yelling things that shall not be transcribed. As I writhed through each back cramp in triage, I asked the nurse to tell me how big the contractions were measuring, you know, Richter scale style. She paused before telling me that “she had seen smaller,” and it became apparent that my contraction-free first labor had made me a total wimp. Yet sure enough, I had dilated past 5 cm, and thus even my weak back contractions were regular enough to where I was admitted and started antibiotics for the GBS.

And then the epidural came. Glory. That is all I can say. GLORY BE. Once that sweet sweet numbing cocktail started juicing up my whole self, I morphed from deranged beast into a chill dove, gently urging James to go get breakfast and read his paper in the lobby, while I, Zen Mama, listened to an audiobook and calmly awaited my offspring. Behold, the power of modern medicine. I want to marry it and have its babies, but lacking the ability to do that, I shall just allow it to enable me to have all my own.SPring2018-83

When Dr. Bro (as he shall be called because he was so chill that it would not have seemed out of place if I had looked down and seen him sipping beer and eating pizza while checking my cervix) checked in about 2 hours after I had been whispering sweet nothings to my epidural, he announced I was 10cm, but the baby was facing backwards, hence my back pain labor, and still very high. He had me lie on my side with a pillow for about 30 minutes, at which point baby girl dropped FAST and spun around, and it was Time.

Only not.

Given the Group B Strep situation, I had to be on antibiotics for 4 full hours before pushing, and unfortunately, it had only been 3 hours and 55 minutes, a technicality that would result in a whole lot of needles being jabbed into our baby to verify that she was fine. Dr. Bro and the nurse decided we would take up that 5 minutes with a practice push, just to remember how it is done. Since this was a practice, no one was ready for a baby, and he was still telling us a story about his own grandkids as I practice pushed for 1 second, 2 seconds- and then stopped at 3 as the nurse, doctor, and James all yelled for me to STOP BECAUSE THE HEAD IS COMING.

And so, dear reader, I stopped. Which was totally fine, because I had an epidural, so I was like, you got some America’s Next Top Model reruns on Bravo? Because I could be here all day and it is fine. The doctor started getting ready and suggested that perhaps I would want to fill the time by ordering breakfast to arrive after the baby. Why yes, yes I would. And so, there with my legs up and splayed awkwardly and mid-push, I ordered a breakfast burrito. Priorities, people.SPring2018-84

The second the clock hit 4 hours from the start time of the antibiotics, I pushed through one contraction. Dr. Bro told me that the baby would be out on the next one, and we fell to chatting in between. Mid-chat, and before the next contraction, he asked me to give just a little push, and then calmly requested I look down. I did, expecting- I don’t know what, but not the end of labor. With Henry I pushed for 2.5 exhausting hours before the doctor finally held him aloft like a hairless Simba and I wept. But this time, after less than three minutes of pushing, I looked down mid-conversation and there she was, looking equally surprised as the doctor handed her to me with a nonchalance that belied the fact that a human soul had just entered the world.

After such a difficult pregnancy, she was there. So calmly, so painlessly, so quietly and quickly entering my arms in a way that left me wondering how it could have all ended so suddenly and with so little fanfare. She was just there, our daughter, our Marietta Elizabeth, feeling so surprising and right all at once. She was on my chest and that strange swelling feeling of love and recognition and wonder that washes over you in waves was rushing to bubble over. She was a tiny bundle of dark hair and scrunched features and I knew her and she was strange all at once. Our Etta, a name, the only name, that we had discussed for months, arriving at last.

Welcome to the world little girl, we love you so. 81-EW06201893-EW062018And when my beyond delicious breakfast burrito arrived shortly after her birth, it also felt very, very right.

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The Summer List.

As always, I’m already a little drunk on summer and excited about the next couple months of long days and sweaty adventures around this city. We’ve already been to the splash pad close to ten times, including every night last weekend. These sun drenched days and big smiles are good for my soul. A lot of this transition from 1 to 2 has been really hard on me, but I told James that I feel so much better and collected when we are out and about. No matter how insane it is getting out the door, the second we start exploring this city, I feel confident and happy again.

I’m leaning in to the fact that Etta is a schedule-less potted plant newborn, and I’m refusing to stay home to get her on a nap schedule, opting instead to have her nap on the go so Henry and I can be out and about. I didn’t feel this freedom the first time around, but now I know- good sleep and schedules will come. But for these months- we are prioritizing being out. In addition to all our normal summer activities and time with friends, I’m trying to make some goals for what we want to do and accomplish this summer.

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Here’s what’s on our list for this summer:

Spend less time on my phone around the kids. I read this article and was really convicted that my vigilance over Henry’s screen time needs to impact how much he sees of my own.

Get daily toddler HIIT workouts in with Henry, as these really do help us get moving in our tiny space and enjoy the rest of our day so much more.

Hit the lavender farms (or this one!) and the sunflower fields.

A beach trip! I would love to make it all the way to the actual ocean, but I’m being realistic and thinking the Chesapeake might be better. Probably here, unless I find someone with a nice beach house who wants us to invade for the day.

Pick something. Probably blackberries here following the sunflowers, just like last year.

Find a creek for Henry to play in. Anyone in the DC area have a lead on a nice shady creek with a shallow creek for toddlers who love hurling rocks and getting muddy?

Check out this aviation museum with planes for Henry to sit in.

Make the rounds of our favorite splash pads, like Navy Yard and the Wharf and I want to check out this one.

Read books. With my dissertation behind me, and lots of nursing before me, I’m trying to actually read some fun books. Started this recently and I’m excited about it.

We usually hit the free ward days at the National Building Museum summer exhibit, but we are sadly out of town on our day this year. Boo! But check out yours here if you are local! We loved the Beach a couple years back and the Hive last year.

What are you all up to this summer? And DC area people with fun activities or festivals that I missed?

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Another list of random things.

First things first:Summer2018-2

THIS BABY. She is the best. And once we finally gave her a bath, she also assumed the fluffy hair of a baby bunny so just when I think she couldn’t get any better, she does! But good or not, this newborn stage still does not at all come naturally or easy to me, hence the lack of more substantial blog posts lately.

Now then- some random things worth noting.

A friend brought this baked ziti to Bible study recently* and I cannot emphasize enough how mind-blowingly good it was. Baked ziti takes me back to middle school days spent at the mall and leisurely lunches at Sbarro, and it is one of my favs, but this one elevates it to sinfully good. Do not flinch at that 1.5 lbs of mozzarella- just do it. (*By that I mean “three months ago” but I made a mental note to share it and am just now doing so.)

And on another cheesy pasta front, I made this last month (as I am nottttttt cooking again any time in the foreseeable future and living that people-bringing-covered-dishes life) for a fast summer lunch and it was everything I want in an easy pasta dish. I even cheated and didn’t string the sugar snap peas and it was totally fine.

Ok, fine- one more recent pasta win. Meatballs in the oven are my new favorite easy hack. I used lots more spinach than called for and it was a huge hit.

This will not be my finest swimsuit summer, but if I was looking to add one – I love this one.

I’ve been on an intense sort-and-purge mission to make up for the fact that we didn’t move pre-baby and are thus trying to carve out more space in our apartment. Because if you build enough shelves and toss enough things, it’s basically another bedroom right? (Wrong.) But I still loved this article about the anorexic homes the society and social media especially are pushing on us.

I wrote about our TV time extremism recently and many people happily informed me that I would cave on this as life gets harder. Maybe that’s true. But I hope to always be intentional about boundaries, and this article had some great information and realistic pointers.

I have always loved Beth Moore, and I really, Really, REALLY loved her bold words recently. The Church needs more such women.

But on a somber note, this article was a chilling and informative reminder of what parents can do to inadvertently make their children easy targets for terrible people. It made me sick reading it, and also made me aware of the things we do without even thinking about it that could open our children to abuse.

And to close, Henry, who has taken to requesting to have his photo taken and then posing like this far longer than necessary. He’s posing with the Blue Track, a game changer for small space play. Summer2018-4

Happy weekend! Happy Monday! It’s Tuesday and I’m finally getting to posting this- carry on.

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This is 2.

Henry turned 2 two weeks ago. Toddlers are great because they have such a low threshold for enjoyment. When we talked about what to do for his birthday, I was emphatic that we not do anything requiring much work. We weren’t sure when baby girl would show up, but I was sure that I would feel very disinterested in anything involving lots of work in those final weeks of pregnancy. Instead, we filled the day with the things that our little boy loves.SPring2018-51Like a breakfast date at the Pretzel Bakery! If you follow on Instagram, you know that we go here a lot. It was a default play space during the winter, and most of the weekday employees know Henry by now. They have chased him when he escaped and I was too pregnant to run after him, doled out band-aids when I was lacking, and had so much patience with the many messes he has created. One morning recently, I brought Henry in bed to snuggle when he woke early. He did so for a little while and then rolled to face me, put his hands on either side of my face, leaned in close, and firmly whispered, “Pretzel Slider… later.” What can I say- we are raising him well. SPring2018-55SPring2018-59We decided to invite a bunch of friends to join us in the park for donuts and coffee- no decorations, no games, no fuss. But my SIL did pick up these yellow balloons, because Henry is obsessed with “lellow boons.” To be fair, he calls all balloons yellow, and he also examined my belly one morning and declared it too, a “lellow boon.”SPring2018-61SPring2018-62SPring2018-63This is probably my favorite picture of my son. He is so happy here, and I’m not surprised, because he is surrounded by everything he loves most. He is outside, free in the park where we run daily. He has all his family around him, and his friends. This kid loves his friends, asks for them daily and lives for play dates with his posse. He loves singing, and frequently sings a mashup of all the songs he knows that goes, “Holy holy, shake your booty! AMAZING grace, Make wayyyyyyy, Happy birthday!!!” And he has treats, donuts. James recently asked Henry what he does with Mommy while Daddy is at work and Henry calmly answered that we “Go Target, eat donuts,” which did happen to be the truth that day. Even though we offer mostly healthy food at home, I love sharing a treat out in the city with my boy. I love getting to split something with him and see his face light up when I say we are going to get a treat. SPring2018-65SPring2018-66SPring2018-68SPring2018-71With his posse of uncles and aunt- this kid is beyond lucky that he has spent two years around extended family. My brother and his wife are moving this summer, and Henry will be saddest of all. Anytime he sees a car around town that looks like theirs, he gleefully informs me, “Dat’s Tante Wuthie’s car!!!” and he lives to go to their house and play with the “music” (ukulele) and suitcases that he knows lives there. As for James’s brother, Philip recently joined us at the park on one of those scooters you can rent anywhere around town. Henry has not stopped talking about, nor has he stopped angrily yelling at anyone else he sees around town on one that, “DAT’S UNCLE PHILIP’S SCOOTER!!!” Property rights are a top passion right now, and nothing disturbs our type A child like seeing someone in possession of something not theirs. This inevitably leads to the sorts of sharing issues and tantrums that we all associate with toddlers, but I also love it, love watching him connect objects and people in his world. SPring2018-72SPring2018-74I see a Walt Whitman quote so often on romantic cards or cute prints: “We were together, I forget the rest.” Every time I see it, I think of these past 2 years with Henry, these past 2 years where the blessing of his demanding nature and my flexible schedule means that my son and I have been together so much. We have taken on this city as a team, explored and adventured in every weather and circumstance. We have cried so much, laughed so much, and gone through approximately 2 million wet wipes. We have learned what it means to be a parent and a child and we have been together. He won’t remember much else of these early years, but I want him to remember that. He won’t remember all our mornings spent scooting to the Pretzel Bakery, the days where we rode the metro around the city just to stay warm, the times that we twirled under the low hanging pines at the park and yelled “TREEEEE FORTTTTT!” and laughed. He won’t remember how I climbed into his crib after every nap to snuggle until I got too pregnant or how I wore him in the sling way past the weight when it was doable to do so. But I hope he remembers that we were together, always together.

As for me, I don’t want to forget the rest of what 2 is for us. The way he has used a case of San Pellegrino as a “special seat” beside his crib for 8 months, only to replace it with a case of La Croix when we finally drank it. The way he rides his scooter with a boldness and dexterity that shocks people and is obsessed with his R2D2 helmet. The wallet we gave him for his birthday that he carries in his pocket and naps with, stocked with old loyalty cards. He thinks it looks like James’ wallet and that is all he wants. His obsession with luggage and emergency vehicles and escalators. His attempts at praying, which include “Thank you father” and then a list of everything from us, to the park. His love of our routines, and his insane knowledge of getting around Capitol Hill. The way we begs every day to go to work with James, mostly because he wants to ride the bus. His love of dancing and the way that, at the church nursery when other kids calmly sit and sing, he hurls his entire body all over during song time. His enthusiasm about helping with “laundries” and his zeal over cleaning floors. The way that he still likes to lay against my chest and wrap his arms around my neck when I hold him before naps. The way he likes to play with the house keys and walk out of the apartment yelling “Bye- see you later!” only to sit on the bottom step of the next flight of stairs and invite me to sit next to him. The way that his extroverted self sometimes crashes and he asks to sit in his crib with his toolbox, “just a couple minutes,” so he can regroup as he faux drills and nails and measures in silence. This is 2.

The night of his birthday, I insisted on putting him to bed though James usually does it. I sang extra long and held him, but instead of it calming him down, it ended in uproarious laughter as he kept on saying something and dying laughing, which made me laugh, and the cycle continued. We snuggled and laughed for so long, before I finally laid him down and he told me he loved me “so much!” I cried in the darkness, thankful for two years of calling that boy mine. I didn’t know when I put him down that I wouldn’t see him for 48 hours, that we would leave in the wee hours of the morning to head to the hospital. I didn’t know that the weeks that followed would be so hard, not because a newborn is hard or my body was sore, but because I would watch my wonderful little boy struggle in seeing his world shift. I didn’t know that the days following his perfect birthday would be full of so much imperfect behavior and anger and difficulty as he tried to find footing in our new family pattern. It’s normal, I know, this behavioral lapse when a new sibling comes home. And honestly, I get it. Henry, while excited for “my Etta,” is mourning the end of what was, of our dynamic duo. I get it, because I mourn it too, all while loving our new family of four.

So this is 2. All the excitement and wonder and hilarity and difficulty all at once. The past 2 years have, without a doubt, been the happiest of my life. Here’s to many more, and the kid who has made them so good.

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