Thursday, May 30, 2013

new buddies



We've had a handful of stuffed animals lying around since Emerson was born. She has never been interested in any of them, though, save for the occasional play session with the ABC dog we (begrudgingly) inherited from her cousin. But, all of a sudden a couple of weeks ago, Emerson began falling in love with any animal or doll-type friend we put in her vicinity. Now she hugs them, plays with them, lies down on the floor and cuddles with them, and carries them around the house where ever she goes. She lights up with complete joy and begins laughing and clapping when she sees them. I'm telling you, it's love. 

All of this means that we now have extra company at the dinner table, in the car, on the changing table. Very often, Emerson will also refuse to eat unless her doggie is sitting with her….and singing. The minute the song loop on doggie ends, Emerson shuts her mouth and turns her head. The minute we hit the button and make it sing again, Emerson opens her mouth wide. Sigh...



Mostly, Emerson's tightness with her new buds is pretty adorable. Yes, sometimes it's difficult to do everything with an extra "baby" in tow. But, it's so heart-warming to watch your child "love" other things and people….to see her giving out all of the love you worked so hard to put in. And right now, Emerson really wants to share this experience with me. It's not so much about her being like sorry mom, I have my own life now, I'm gonna hang with doggie and dolly. No. It's more like Emerson handing me her buddies after she's done hugging them so I can see how awesome they are and hug them too. She loves to watch me cradle baby doll or pat teddy's back when he gets hurt. She knows I will take care of them. She knows that if they are important to her, they are important to me. She knows. After twelve months of devoting myself to building a strong, loving foundation to my child's being, I am beginning to catch glimpses of the result of all that effort. My baby has faith in my mothering…..she knows how to love, because she's watched me love her.



Of course, it won't always be this way. Emerson will soon grow attached to real, live buddies. And she won't want to share that experience with me. Instead, she will tear across a playground, away from me, at the sight of her future buddies. They will be the bee's knees and I will be….mom. This thought is so hard to accept, but it also presents itself as an opportunity. An opportunity to instill gentleness and kindness into my child. To love her, play with her, and share with her so she will do the same with others. To show her how to create relationships that will enrich her life and put a smile on her face. Because, I may be her Universe right now, but I want more than anything for her to go out into the world with an ever-widening support system that will hold her, encourage her and keep her company. These "buddies" are a first step...

Tuesday, May 28, 2013

this is our life- the wee hours



It's 5:30 a.m. Emerson, who is lying beside me, begins to wiggle and stir. She flips over to her left side. Still asleep. Flips over to the right side. Still asleep. She calls out "daddy!" Still asleep. But, I. I am awake. I'm trying desperately to ignore all the thrashing, but knowing it's a losing battle makes it impossible to fall back asleep. I pull out a boob and shove it in Emerson's mouth. She instantly settles, and I think maybe…..just maybe. But, a minute later, there are limbs flying in every direction. Emerson (still asleep) stretches both her legs up in the air and then splits them with a violent force. One leg on mommy, one leg on daddy. She does the same with her arms. Up in the air, and smack! I get whacked in the eye, and then she rests her hand on my cheek. Alex is lucky (at this point). He only gets hit in the back. Emerson is now lying completely spread eagle, while Alex and I cling to our respective sides of the bed.

5:45 a.m. Emerson gets sick of nursing. Instead, she begins to round house kick Alex. Bam. Bam. BAM! After about eleven kicks, Alex is frustrated so he turns over to face us. He falls immediately back to sleep (while I stare at him, full of resentment). As soon as he's asleep, his mouth opens and he begins to breathe heavily. Into my face. And I can't turn over, because Emerson has decided to start nursing again and I don't dare move her….I don't dare wake her up! So now, I am choking on Alex's horrific morning breath. Right into my face. I push him. I manually close his mouth for him….and it pops right back open. The bad breath fan continues. I use my pillow to create a barrier. 

6:15 a.m. Emerson is still asleep, but begins to crawl across my body. She collapses with the upper half of her body on top of my chest, and her legs on Alex's stomach. She rhythmically kicks Alex in the gut, over and over, until Alex finally puts his arm over her feet in an attempt to stop the pain. Emerson gets annoyed. So, she rolls away. Onto my head. The weight of her body is now suffocating me, meanwhile, she seems perfectly comfortable to lie on top of my face. But, then she's not so comfortable anymore. She rolls away toward Alex. She is now lying horizontally across both our pillows….butt in my face, naturally. She farts. Still asleep. I am not amused so I move her back into a normal position on a normal part of the bed. 

6:30 a.m. Emerson wakes up. But, she's still drowsy so she continues to lie there while singing to herself. The singing gets louder. And louder. Until she is screaming out random words—some real, some made-up. She gets stuck on the word "daddy," which reminds her: oh my god, daddy is right here in bed with me! She sits up and starts smacking daddy on the back. 

"Hi, daddy. HI, daddy! HI, DADDYYYY!!!" 

Alex whimpers, but doesn't budge. Displeased with his reaction, Emerson crawls onto daddy's pillow and begins to poke him in the eyes. She sticks her fingers up his nose. She pries his mouth open and pokes his teeth. She grabs his ear and wiggles it back and forth. Alex is trying his hardest to fake that he is sleeping. So, Emerson grabs his eyelids and opens them. 

"Hi, daddy!!"

"Hi, Emerson," Alex mumbles.

I lie there secretly smiling, because damn. If I'm not sleeping, I sure as hell don't want to watch my husband lie there, immune to the miniature acrobat in our bed. But, Alex still refuses to accept that sleepy time is over. He pulls the covers up over his head. My resentment grows.

6:45 a.m. Emerson gets bored with daddy so she crawls back over to me and proceeds to open the shirt I just buttoned up. 

"No, Emerson. Num nums have closed up shop. No more num nums!

Emerson ignores me. She finds her way into my shirt, literally laughing, and begins to nurse again. I want to stop her, but I also don't want to get out of bed….so I let her nurse. Back and forth, back and forth. She switches breasts like she's eating at a buffet. 

7:00 a.m. I can't take anymore. And I'm definitely not getting any sleep. I get out of bed and open the shades. Eventually the bright sunshine annoys Alex enough and he gets out of bed, too. "Emerson, you are one thorough alarm clock," he says.

Good morning.

This is our life.

Friday, May 24, 2013

what not to wear



I am pretty sick of wearing loungewear (aka, my uniform) right now. Except when I have somewhere to go. Because then, I am reminded of what it feels like to experience a good old fashioned wardrobe crisis. You know, those mornings when even your favorite outfit suddenly looks unflattering. Everything you put on is just wrong. You hate all the clothes in your closet and drawers. You try on outfit after outfit, as the pile on your bed grows taller and taller with rejects. And then you start running out of time. You have to leave the house. But, you're still stomping around your room in your underwear surrounded by a mess.

Then, you experience one of those moments with a baby at your feet. And what used to feel like a silly little tantrum begins to mean more. I don't know whether to feel better or worse when Emerson runs out of patience and cries to be picked up while I hurl shirts and pants in every direction. For it could be a reminder of what's really important….it could refocus my energy on things (or persons!) that really matter. Or, it could be a reminder that I don't have the luxury of caring about my appearance most days (which is really only a symbol for the gluttonous freedom I traded in to be a mother).

But, there's more. There is the fact that my wardrobe consists of eight different sizes now. And those pre-pregnancy jeans would look great with that two-months-postpartum shirt. But, that shirt really needs a nude bra and I only have one in my third trimester cup size. And, it doesn't matter anyway, because all three of those items are the wrong size and don't flatter my current body. And it's warm out today so I need short sleeves….but none of my clean tee shirts are breastfeeding-friendly. And WHY AM I STILL NAKED?! I've been out of the shower for 30 minutes!

"Just put something on," suggests my husband.

"BUT YOU DON'T UNDERSTAND! How could you? I have nothing to wear!"


via
And I suddenly realize that I am a mom. Now I'm having an existential crisis (still undressed). How can I wear any of this? How do I reconcile the fact that my closets and drawers are filled with either fancy business clothes or the free-spirited hippie wear of my youth while I am currently approaching my mid-thirites, working from home, and a mom? What would an appropriate wardrobe even look like?!

"I'm just a mom now, aren't I? Does this mean I have to wear one-piece bathing suits?" I ask my husband.

"Yes," he replies.

"Is that depressing?"

"I actually find you more attractive this way. The more matronly, the better."

"What? But, can't I be a MILF?"

"Why do you want teenage boys lusting after you?"

"Well, I don't. I just want to be a MILF to you."

"You already are."

Trying to be this new person, in this new role, is at the same time very natural and very confusing. It's like when I was trying to put together an outfit for Em's birthday party. I narrowed down my choices to two dresses based on the following criteria: does it fit my current body? And, can I say that I don't look like I'm either trying to take someone home from a college bar or going to a corporate luncheon? 

"I am going to try on these dresses for you, and I need you to tell me if they are flattering," I asked my husband.

"That sounds dangerous. I don't like where this is going…" he said.

"I didn't say 'tell me if I look fat or ugly.' It's just about the piece of clothing. Just be honest."

Reactions...Dress one: boxy tee shirt dress I bought a month ago. Blank stare. Eyebrows raised as if confused. Hands up in the air with nothing to say. Dress two: structured spaghetti strap sundress I bought when I was 21 years old. Blank stare. Eyebrows raised at my bust line. Put long cardigan over dress. Hands up in the air, afraid to speak.

"So, should I go with 'shapeless mom' or 'sexy librarian?'"

"Sexy librarian. Shapeless mom's dress is too short."

***

Of course, I know I can wear a short dress if I want to. Or rock a bikini. But, that's not the point. The point is, I don't know if I want to anymore. And to be honest, it's kind of relieving to no longer feel like that is expected of me. Even more so, to realize that maybe it never was. You see, pregnancy forever changed my body, but motherhood. Motherhood has forever changed the way I view my body. I can't wear the old clothes that make me feel like I am trying too hard when I simply want to feel comfortable in exactly who I am.


Wednesday, May 22, 2013

to all the mothers

If there is one thing mothers have a surplus of, it's unsolicited advice. You know, the "advice" that never ceases to pour in from every angle….the masked (or not-so-masked) criticism and judgment. Backseat parenting—that's what I like to call it. It goes a little something like….

Your child isn't eating solid food yet? Why don't you bottle feed her? She really needs to get used to strangers. She shouldn't cry like that. You need to let her cry it out! Toughen her up! Why is she always in that sling? You need to put her down. Why are you still breastfeeding? She doesn't want breast milk. She doesn't like being carried. She isn't tired right now. She wants to stay up later. She's too dependent on you. You're too overprotective. You're doing. it. all. wrong! 

***  

I've spent the better portion of the past year wondering why this happens. Why we aren't being encouraged, complimented, and supported. Why mothers are the constant receivers of inappropriate comments and critiques. Why so many people are trying to predict the (possibly doomed) future our kids are headed for if we don't heed all this advice. 

Here's the thing—children unite us. They are the glue to a family. For instance, I automatically feel more related and bonded to my husband now that we have a child. And I feel more related to all of my in-laws knowing that my baby shares a chunk of DNA with each of them. And my own family. Etc. Etc. But, all of that oneness can lead to….dun dun dun….unsolicited advice. Because, your whole family feels invested in your child. This is just the beginning, though. This oneness stretches past your family, out into the world, in a way that causes masses of people to feel invested in your child. I'm only assuming this is what fuels a complete stranger's confidence in approaching you to comment on your parenting….and of course, also touch your baby.

Oneness is great. Don't get me wrong. I'm a 'one love' kind of gal. But, what all of us mothers don't need is more advice. More comments. More criticisms. What we don't need is everyone around us insisting they have the answers we need. This doesn't feel like love or help. It feels like an invasion of the intimate relationship between mother and child. 

Here is what we do need: to be nurtured. Supported. Encouraged. Appreciated. Loved. So...

To all the mothers,

You are doing a great job. It is awe-inspiring to watch you give and sacrifice until you are empty and exhausted. Only a mother could do that. And what a mother you are! Your transformation from individual to mama bear has been so beautiful to watch. You've been so selfless, so inspiring, so strong. I don't know how you do it! But, it's quite evident that you would do anything for your offspring...that everything you do is for them. I know you have spent so very many hours and days and years devoted to making well-thought-out decisions on how to best care for your child. I know you always do what you believe is best and right for your child. And, I also know that you have all the answers you need...because you are your child's mother. 


Listen to your own voice, your own intuition, your own heart. No one else has the wisdom that you do. No book or relative or friend or baby expert can ever replace that. Did I mention you are doing a great job? Because, you are doing a great job! It's beautiful to watch, really. And, by the way, your struggles and emotions and experience….those are all completely normal. And to be expected. You are not alone in them. Being a mother is HARD. It is never-ending, sometimes thankless, exhausting, and even a little scary. You are a beautiful solider. Your experience is valid. 

And your child—idiosyncrasies and challenges included—is perfectly normal. So, if someone else is leading you to believe that your child is the only one who isn't sleeping or cries in the car, they are either lying or just don't know what they are talking about. And if you think you are a bad mother because that same (normal) child makes you want to cry, scream or hide at times….you are not. No. Also normal. You are a wonderful mother and your child is lucky to have you. 

Keep going! Drown out all the other voices that claim to "know." They don't know. Nobody knows your child like you do. Nobody knows how to love them like you do. Feel confident that you are doing your best and your best is amazing. Yes, YOU ARE DOING A GREAT JOB! Congratulate yourself for giving and surviving, and feel good about all you've done.

Light and love, sisters!

Tuesday, May 21, 2013

this is our life- our first break from parenting

We hired some help recently. Just a little help. So I can have a mere hour or two a week to actually get things done, work on my career, or maybe just sit in an empty room doing nothing. Because, after a year of being with Emerson every waking (and non-waking) moment of my life without even one day (or night!) off…..sister needs. some. help. And so, I asked an amazing high school girl I met a few months ago to help us out.

But then, the day arrived. For the first time EVER, I was off the clock. And Alex came home early from work. So, we were both off the clock. The problem was we had no idea what to do with it. Emerson—who usually will not let me leave her alone with anyone other than Alex—suddenly didn't need me. She was totally in love with her new friend and didn't even notice, let alone cry, when I left the room. I was astonished and suddenly found myself wandering around the house, feeling nervous and confused, not knowing what to do. 

But then I bumped into Alex in the living room and felt a spark of excitement. "We are alone in a room without a baby!" I said, expecting to be met with equal excitement. But, my husband just looked up the staircase to the bedroom, and said he wanted to take a nap. 

"A nap?! But, we're alone in a room. Isn't this what we've been missing the past year? What about all the months you've spent feeling lonely, because I'm always with Emerson?"

"Yah…..I guess you're right. What do you want to do?"

"I don't know. Maybe we could just sit on the couch and talk. Or cuddle? We never get to do that!"

And so, we sat down together, but it felt strange. No one was interrupting us. No one tried to tackle us apart when we cuddled. Was Emerson okay? What was she doing right now? No. Push it out of your mind. Enjoy this moment. Talk about something interesting. Make out. Come on...

We tried.

The thing is, in the absence of our baby, we felt free. But, we were not free in the way we used to be. No. Now, freedom meant not having to find our second, third, fourth or fifth wind of the day. Freedom meant not having to ignore our needs and aches for the well-being of another. Freedom meant abruptly feeling the weight of an entire year tending to our child come crashing down on us. And so, after five minutes of talking about Emerson, the room began to spin. All that cuddling on a soft, comfortable couch was too much for us—we were just two exhausted parents.

"Just go take a nap, baby. That's really all you're capable of right now."

Alex rolled off the couch and dragged himself up the staircase as I sat in the living room comatose...until I was needed again. 

This is our life.

Friday, May 17, 2013

Emerson's party


Although I lost many hours of sleep preparing for Emerson's party—brainstorming, stressing out, feeling overwhelmed, getting excited—I have to say that it was worth it! I put time and energy into the details more as a celebration of what Alex and I had survived and accomplished, but was pleasantly surprised to see that Emerson thoroughly appreciated it, as well. I am pretty sure it was the best day of her life. I mean, she was the center of attention, there was so much entertainment, she got to climb on and rip open piles of presents, and her parents let her make an enormous mess with a cupcake. By the end of the party she was flat out screeching with delight at the top of her lungs, jumping and flapping her arms…she was totally crazy, but in a good way. And all of it made me so happy. It was incredible to watch a room full of people love her….and for her to receive it all.




I didn't get a chance to take many photos of the party details that I spent months researching, pinning, hand making and trolling Etsy for. Yes, I'd say I put just about as much effort into this party as I did for my wedding, only on a shorter timetable! Here are a few of the details….


My jumping off point was this beautiful banner that I knew I wanted to use. Originally, I was going to make one myself, but mamas don't have endless amounts of time. Enter Etsy. I bought the banner from Starlit Nest Gifts—beautiful shop, highly recommend. It made me feel good knowing that it was still handmade—even if they weren't my hands—and I can't speak highly enough of the quality.


Next I added another ever-popular party choice: stripped paper straws in mason jars. I know it seems like everyone these days is using these themes, but I happen to think vintage-y bunting banners and paper straws in mason jars are just so lovely no matter how often I see them.

In addition to framed photos placed on all the tables, I posted a mini clothesline (a combination of ideas from Pinterest with my own spin) displaying photos from each month of Emerson's life. I used baker's twine in hot pink and aqua (party theme colors) for the mini clothesline from the same Etsy shop I purchased the straws and matching cupcake liners from. By the way, I will be using Cakes and Kids Too in the future for my party needs—amazing selection of party decor items! Check them out!

I attached the photos to the "clothesline" with hot pink Washi tape (Michael's purchase)—super simple and inexpensive.




We did a brunch hors' d'oeuvres buffet with mini pancake stacks (with whipped cream and strawberry topping) and mushroom spinach quiche cups. My amazing husband made little flag toppers for the pancake stacks using bamboo skewers (cut in half) and leftover Washi tape (thanks, honey!). This is not a photo of our actual pancake stacks, but they looked just like this: 


The last bit I will share about was one of my main birthday concerns: the big (cup)cake smashing tradition. I wanted to give Emerson the chance to have fun with this, but I had two concerns. My first concern being that I didn't feel too excited about going from one extreme to another—Emerson has never had any sugar, but I'd then be giving her a huge, concentrated bomb of it. So, I wanted to make cupcakes that utilized some form of natural sweetness and no added sugar. There will be plenty of time for real sugar, after all.

My second concern was introducing new foods one at a time. Given her strong family history of food allergies, Emerson has not had any dairy, eggs, soy, corn, nuts, or wheat/gluten yet. So, I needed a cake that was allergy-free and sugar-free. Not the easiest kind of cake to make! After trying a few recipes I found on blogs and Pinterest, I settled on a Vegan Carrot Cake (original recipe found here- but I modified it). In trying out recipes, though, I determined that the ingredient that makes allergy-free treats still TASTE GOOD is SUGAR. Yes, they taste horrible without it. Sigh. So, I resolved to allow my child to have a tiny bit of sugar by adding a thin layer of homemade maple buttercream frosting (dairy-free but can be made with real butter, too) on top of her sugar-free cupcake. Recipes below...




healthy vegan carrot cake muffins
makes 6 muffins 

ingredients:
  • 1 cup gluten-free flour (I like Bob's Red Mill or Namaste Foods)
  • 1/2 tsp baking powder
  • 1/2 tsp baking soda
  • pinch sea salt
  • 1/2 cup + 1/8 cup water
  • 1/2 tsp cinnamon
  • 1/4 tsp nutmeg
  • 1/2 cup organic carrots, grated
  • 1/4 cup organic sugar-free applesauce (I prefer to make this myself- steam, then puree the apples)


directions: 
  1. Preheat oven to 375ยบ F.
  2. Line muffin trays with liners.
  3. In a large bowl, whisk together all of the dry ingredients. Fold in the grated carrot and applesauce. 
  4. Scoop the batter into baking cups and bake for about 10 minutes, or until done. Transfer to cooling rack and cool completely.


dairy-free maple buttercream frosting


ingredients:
  • 1 1/2 cups powdered sugar
  • 3 tbsp real maple syrup
  • 1/4 cup butter substitute (I use Earth Balance Coconut Spread-amazing!)

directions: 
  1. Soften butter.
  2. Add all ingredients to a bowl or Kitchen Aid.
  3. Beat until smooth and creamy.

Thursday, May 16, 2013

Birthday GIVE AWAY!




In honor Emerson's birthday I am having a (small) give away! For, if it wasn't for the birth of my sweet angel (and muse) I wouldn't have found my voice as a writer, nor would I have found something I am passionate enough about to write about every day. And, if it wasn't for YOU, my lovely readers, this blog would be nothing. 

So, I am giving away a copy of one of my favorite children's book, The Night You Were Born! Though I have many favorites, this one is most dear to my heart. Alex read this book to my belly every night during the last half of my pregnancy, and we continue to read it to Emerson today. The story has always touched my heart (and on occasion, made me tear up). Not to mention, the pictures are beautiful works of art.





To enter, leave a comment (here or on Facebook) telling me what your favorite book was as a child (or any comment at all!). I will pick the winner on random.org next Thursday (the cut off will be 6:00 pm EST, Wednesday). Good luck!




Wednesday, May 15, 2013

One year of Emerson: the video

Okay, let's try this again! It took me weeks to put this video together commemorating Emerson's first year…..and when it was finally up, youtube muted all the audio. I'm so bummed because this montage went so well with Bob Dylan's "Forever Young." The peppy version best known as the Parenthood theme, that is. But, apparently that is like the one song you can't use (thanks a lot Parenthood copyrights!). Regardless, these are the words I still hear when watching the video:
May God bless and keep you always
may your wishes all come true
May you always do for others
and let others do for you
May you build a ladder to the stars
and climb on every rung
May you stay forever young.

Of course, "love you more than anyone" isn't a horrible substitute. Here is the video with a song I used for my pregnancy video….

Tuesday, May 14, 2013

One year of Emerson


So, it's done. Emerson is one. And I am sick with a cold on top of horrible seasonal allergies thanks to the time and stress that went into preparing for the big birthday party. It was a lovely day filled with so much happiness, though….but I will share more about the party in a separate post. Because this. This is the last monthly update. Although children's ages are still given in months until they are at least two-years-old, in reality we have really moved past "months." Emerson has seen a full calendar year, and we will never have a year like the first one. So bittersweet. 

Side note: I'm not sure if/how I will continue these monthly updates. I've done weekly and then monthly updates since I was 13-weeks pregnant. So, on the one hand, it feels kind of strange to not do updates anymore. But, I also feel like it makes sense to stop at a year…like it becomes boring or repetitive for readers. What do you think?

***


Emerson has made it very clear the past month that she is a little person now, not a baby. Previous to this shift, I knew we were in for some big changes when she suddenly became very clingy and started asking to be babied. For weeks, when I would pick her up and hold her on my hip, she would wiggle herself down into my arms until I was cradling her like a newborn. And she would want me to just hold her like that, nursing and rocking for a long while as she stared up at me. Of course, Emerson is not a little baby anymore. She is so tall that her long legs have nowhere to go when she is being "cradled." So, I would have her little body in my arms while her legs stuck straight up in the air, her feet usually ON my face (yes, like feet on my cheeks or toes digging into my eyes). I kept saying to Alex that it was like having a giant golden retriever that ignores her size and pretends she's a lap dog. 


Then, one day, after all of that closeness and cradling and reassurance, Emerson began to walk and point at everything and then say the words of the things she pointed at (she can say a list of about ten words now!) and feed herself and grow hair. She clearly knew she was turning one. And I wasn't the only one it was bittersweet for. No, Emerson also needed to reminisce and be a baby a bit longer, and then let go and let ONE wash over her and pull her into toddlerhood.

***

Emerson has noticed that she is growing hair. I catch her rubbing her hands over her head or excitedly trying to make a mess of the tiny hairs growing on top of her crown. I have to say, I am pretty darn excited myself to see what she looks like with hair! I'm so used to the baldness at this point that part of me assumes she will always look this way. I seriously cannot wait for braids and buns and pigtails….

The other adorable thing Emerson has added to her bag of tricks is making pretend phone calls. She's been pretty obsessed with the telephone for a few months, even though Alex and I are so not phone people. We gave her an old phone as a toy, but it just isn't her jam if she can't hear a dial tone and input numbers into the speed dial (Emerson now has more contacts on our phone than we do…..J2IJ-TT at 222, for instance). She also holds pretty much every object she finds up to her ear, or often just her hand. She says "hi" and then proceeds to have what sound like very serious business calls. It's so interesting to watch a child learn intonation and conversation flow well before they can speak in real language. I may not know what she is saying, but based on Emerson's phone conversations, she is clearly in charge and assertive. I always thought I'd give birth to a little hippie child, but I'm fairly certain I gave birth to a Wall Street tycoon.


To end my (possibly last) update, I will leave you with my feelings (as posted on Facebook) on May 12th:


As of 3:08 pm this afternoon, I have a one-year-old. As much as I intentionally savored every moment with my little girl-doing my very best to enjoy each phase, never being too busy to stop for a cuddle, celebrating every milestone both big and small, and appreciating the beauty in the midst of challenging times—this year still managed to fly by at a speed I've never known. Happy Birthday, Emerson Winter! You are beauty, wit, pure joy, comedy, confidence, gentle love, fierce enthusiasm, and daring adventure. You were born with the beat in your soul and and feet ready to dance. You are my heart. And the best Mother's Day gift I could ever ask for! Thank you for blessing my life and inspiring me to be the best version of myself I can be. I love you! 

I spent weeks making a video commemorating Emerson's first year, but youtube muted all the audio because I used a Bob Dylan song (the Parenthood theme….it was so perfect). So instead I offer you….a GAZILLION photos (I seriously could not put down the camera given how nostalgic and emotional I was feeling all month…and I'm actually in the photos for once!)...


































Happy one year, Emerson Winter!

Friday, May 10, 2013

this is labor

Last May 10th, on a warm, sunny day much like today, I went into labor thus commencing an incredible three-day journey that changed me in countless ways. And lately, I've been revisiting every form of documentation I have from before, during and after that time—photos, blog posts, baby book entries, videos. It's as if I have to replay it all a thousand times before it finally sinks in. Before it finally feels real. Before I can understand how this all happened so quickly. This whole year it has felt like I just gave birth….like, last week maybe. But, in going back and watching the SIX video tapes we recorded throughout the actual labor and birth, I finally get how long ago it actually was. For the first time, I saw the divide. I saw the transformation take place on camera, so clearly, before my now slightly seasoned motherly eyes. 

The video footage I watched begins with me waiting to go into labor (though that part is not included here). I am 40-weeks pregnant, not knowing I have another three weeks (on account of my due date being changed when I was 41-weeks…..the worst). And that girl—yes, I would call her a "girl"—has such a different presence about her. She looks younger. Much younger. Though it was only a year ago, giving birth and mothering a babe have aged me. It's not just physical though. My voice, my demeanor, and my energy look different, too. I wasn't fully a mother yet. I wasn't fully a woman yet. And then there is the way Alex and I talk to one another….it's so different than it is now. We were gentle and quiet, overly loving in every interaction. You can see that it is just the two of us. Now, we get to the point. We are blunt and communicate rapid-fire style in an attempt to get as much out in the five-minute window our child has allotted us each day. We are in love, but still in the trenches of the most challenging upheaval to our lives that we've ever known. We are there, helping one another survive and feel supported rather than making out every five minutes.

But, back to the video. I attempted to put together a montage of my 51-hour, three-day-long labor. That was a tall task, let me tell you. Be forewarned, the video quality is pretty awful most of the time (it gets better part way through). I have yet to figure out how to get the footage off of my ancient video camera and onto my computer so I had improvise (read: horrible method). Also, it was nighttime during a lot of this footage so it's rather dark. 

ANYWAY, you don't care about any of this, do you? No. Because you are just curious as hell to see me in labor. Right? I know I would be. I'm so fascinated by birth! I'd watch a video of any one of you in labor. But, this we already know. SO. Most of what you see is taken out of context. I think it's not so important to understand all the stories or jokes—it's really just to give you a sense of what it actually looked like. FYI- I did not include any of the footage after I was transferred to the hospital. It gets naked-y and graphic, people. What IS included is dancing, contracting, booty shaking, eating lots of buttery toast, the baby's heart beating inside my contracting belly, me in hysterics telling stories in between contractions (a story about Alex dancing with me in a drum circle at my favorite yoga retreat center….where coincidentally all the hippies fart at will….if you were wondering while watching the video), the mood shifting to a more calm, subdued mama bear, the contractions getting stronger….and stronger. Yes, this is labor: joy, excitement, humor, strength, courage, persistence…and yes, some pain. It's the most amazing experience ever. Enjoy!

P.S. If you haven't read my six-part birth story, here are the links: Part I, Part II, Part III, Part IV, Part V, Part VI

**This is a 7.5 minute video so you might want to let it load before you hit play


Thursday, May 9, 2013

life in motion…and coming attractions!

I have a long, unpublished list of posts sitting here given I've been working on so many (emotionally-driven) projects in celebration of E turning one this coming weekend. I've overwhelmed myself to a serious degree, though. I just can't seem to take enough pictures, film enough videos, write enough words, make enough personalized decorations for the big party, put together enough time capsules commemorating the past year for Emerson to open up someday, or make enough crazy media pieces. I'm out. of. control. 

And so, I'm slightly paralyzed. I mean, I have no business taking on so much, especially given I've basically been taking care of Emerson on my own the past week. And I'm totally, ridiculously sleep-deprived on account of the fact that Emerson starting WALKING, and girlfriend cannot sleep because of it. AND. I'm up to my eyeballs in party planning, which is sort of my least favorite thing to do. 

So. I guess my point is, I have so much to share with you all….it's just coming out slower than anticipated. But, look forward to some great stuff in the next week! I'm talking video footage of me in labor (um, yes!), a special video dedicated to one-year of Emerson, a give away (oh yes, free prizes for y'all!), about a gazillion photos, and much more! 

For now, I have some short clips of Emerson learning to walk. Mind you, I absolutely die at how cute Emerson's crawl is, and will be so sad when she finally gives it up and walks 100% of the time (she's still crawling a lot). Oh, the sound of a baby crawling, happily and rapidly, about the house: smack, smack, smack (go the hands on hardwood floors). And Emerson has the sassiest crawl I've ever seen—swaying her hips from side to side and squealing with delight. Sigh. BUT. A baby learning to watch is thrilling. And so adorable. And it just makes me giggle. 

Emerson's steps are still a bit tipsy, but she's been making a lot of progress every day. Here are some of her first steps….

Monday, May 6, 2013

365 days

Something has occurred to me in the midst of all my Emerson-is-turning-one-and-I-can't-stop-reminiscing-and-crying-and-smiling-and-god-I'm-an-emotional-mess state, as of late. And that something has me in awe. Here it is: I have spent every single day with Emerson since the day she was born (or conceived, really). An entire year with one person. That's crazy. Just think about it—regardless of how much or how little time we spend with any one other human being, we still move about this earth, and our days, as one person. Alone. 



Yet, right now, that is not the case for Emerson. She has never known a day, let alone an hour, that didn't involve mama given I have yet to leave her in the care of someone else. Yes, I have handed her off to Alex for an hour or two many, many times. But, they are still in the same house and inevitably I pop into the room to say hi or Emerson comes to find me. Other than that, the biggest outing I've ventured out on sans baby was a 25-minute run to the post office. What's more, I go to sleep with Emerson every night, and always have. So, she hasn't even been alone to sleep. I know all those facts may stun some people, but it's what feels natural and works for our family. And is won't always be this way.



Still, I am amazed and actually quite impressed that I have managed to spend that much time with anyone. I certainly didn't spend time like that with my own mother as a babe. And I certainly haven't spent that much time with anyone. Ever. I have always been an introvert, preferring to spend oodles of time alone. No. Needing to spend oodles of time alone. I always opted to live alone rather than with roommates in my younger years. And though previous to having a child, Alex and I were seemingly glued to one another…..there was still so much distance, so much time as an individual, when compared to the past 360 days with E.


It's been trying on my patience and mood and alertness at times. For sure. But, the past 360 days have been the most beautiful thing I've ever been a part of (aside from my union with Alex). The thing is, in all the years, and decades, I spent dreaming about having children, I never thought this is what motherhood would look like for me. I always thought I'd be working some high-powered job while my child was in daycare so I really had no a clue that when the time came, I would feel overwhelmingly certain that I'd wanted to be home with my child for 365 consecutive days without a break. I never realized I would want my baby to sleep next to me as opposed to in her own room. I wouldn't have dreamed that my idea of "alone time" would transform from days without speaking to another human being to a simple 20-minute shower in peace. I didn't know I was even capable of living the life that I am right now. But, all of this has felt like the most natural thing in the world to me. And I wouldn't trade any one of the last 360 days for anything. 



I have been surprised by my experience of parenthood, but every surprise is met with a knowing feeling that this is the way it was always meant to be for me. I just didn't know it yet. 

What will the next 365 bring?