I’ll never let toys take over my house and other lies I told myself. 

There are toys all over my house. I actually strategically place toys in each room of the house. So not only do I do the EXACT OPPOSITE of what I said pre-baby, I do it on purpose.

There are lots of great reasons to not let toys take over your house.

  • It’s not attractive.
  • It’s not welcoming to your adult friends, who you still want to hang out with you but struggle to make time for.
  • There is no child-free area. Nothing feels sacred anymore.

But alas there are toys in Haines’ room, toys in our living room, toys in our guest room (just extra books and a single wooden puzzle), toys upstairs in my office/craft area (I’m still waiting for my creative juices to come back so I can utilize this space), toys in each bathroom and toys in the kitchen.

Yes, it sounds awful. If you do not have children or your child is young enough to have not taken over your house, you might think I’m crazy. But I have shit to do. In every room of my house.

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Our living room is where we hang out and is where there is the most space so that’s where a lot of Haines’ toys are. Eventually I want to get to a place where they be easily hidden, but right now it’s just a goal.

kitchen

In the kitchen we have one lower cabinet that I have let Haines take over. Every time he leaves a toy out in the kitchen, that’s where it goes. I have also moved all his baby bottles there. He likes to throw them all over the floor. It’s not as annoying as it sounds. We’re working on him picking things back up. I’d say it’s a 30% success rate.

bathroom

I originally put these shelves in here for cute things like plants or towels. Ha!

The bathroom is one of the most important places to have toys. Sometimes your bathroom business is not quick. Sometimes you need a few minutes. It’s not as though your 18 month old can just wander around the house safely entertaining himself. No, he has to be in the bathroom with you. He might be satisfied taking your tampons and pads out of the bottom drawer for a few minutes but now you need to wash your hands, brush your teeth and check your hair. Time for a police car that makes siren noises and a book.

 

office

To be totally honest, I only have toys in my office as part of my fantasy where I’m going to do work up there and Haines will entertain himself. This has never once happened. I only work up there during nap time and “work” is really cleaning up the piles of bills and other things I let stack up for weeks at a time. A girl can dream.

So I have toys all over my house.

Sometimes I also feed my child fruit when he refuses to eat the dinner I made him. Berries mostly. Yep, he throws food on the floor and then I give him fruit. Sometimes I cry about it too.

Several times a week he watches Sesame Street or Daniel Tiger, another thing I said I’d never rely on before he was born.

Even though I thought I’d only expose my child to awesome musicians that Tyler and I love, we listen Pandora’s Toddler Radio or Family Folk Songs every single day. In fairness, watching Haines try to do all the gestures to Wheels on the Bus makes my heart explode. Who knew, right?

 

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Pregnancy Update: Halfway!

So we finally crossed over the halfway mark in pregnancy. According to friends my pregnancy is flying by… I’m not sure I feel the same way, but I’m enjoying it more than I did with Haines.

With Haines I was incredibly stressed about what it was going to mean to be a mother. I assumed I would feel an insane love for him but I didn’t know what that meant. I couldn’t imagine what that felt like and I certainly didn’t understand what a driver that would become in my life. I was worried about experiencing a loss of identity and missing out on the things I enjoy.

They weren’t unreasonable concerns. I did feel lost for a while in the fourth trimester. I felt overwhelmed and without purpose. My sole activity was just to keep Haines alive which wasn’t very fulfilling despite the joy I felt holding and loving him. I still struggle with finding time for the things I enjoy. This blog post will probably take a week to write and yet it’s all fine. I have a better sense of “this is temporary” and more excitement rather than nerves this pregnancy. Although the idea of having two children to chase is terrifying.

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Pregnancy has treated me very well so far. My nausea was worse in the first trimester than with Haines but it was still manageable. Our anatomy scan showed a healthy baby in there and so far our only concerns are:

  • My placenta is underneath the baby which is not where it’s supposed to be. We’ll get an additional ultrasound at 28 weeks to see if it moves, which is apparently very common. Worst case scenario is a c-section which is not the end of the world.
  • Making sure I get antibiotics before delivery to reduce the risk of group strep b this time. I definitely want to avoid another sepsis experience!

This are both things we can prepare for and although I think about them from time to time, I’m not overly worried. We’ve chatted with the midwives and the pediatrician on our concerns and feel pretty good.

I’ve discovered I’m waddling already, much to my chagrin. I’m just a waddler apparently. I’m making a bigger effort to exercise despite hating it more and more. Today I went to a High Intensity Interval Training class and made so many modifications that I wondered why I was there. Still, it helped to be in a class setting and I did exercises that I wouldn’t have thought of to do on my own. With Haines I severely reduced my exercise starting at 32 weeks. I’m hoping to make it that long again.

Otherwise life is pretty much:

  • Drinking gallons of water every day (Okay, I average around 90-100 ounces) and peeing every 45 minutes
  • Obsessively coating my skin in sweet almond oil to prevent stretch marks
  • Hosting family- tis the benefits of living at the beach!
  • Surviving 90F+ days with 80% humidity
  • Re-reading Great With Child for the second time (recommend!) as well as reading Fever Dream (recommend!), Educated (recommend!), And Now We Have Everything (3 out of 5 stars), and What We Lose (don’t recommend). My night stand stack of books is shrinking… but I have a back up pile ready!

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Every day I feel more kicks and somersaults which I am relishing. It’s a total gift to know this little guy who is a total mystery and yet I know more about him than anyone else. What a strange thing to be a mother, isn’t it?

I finished this all in one sitting. I’m beyond impressed with myself.

 

So long spring, hello summer!

I’m sad to say May is gone. It’s an annual tragedy. May begins quietly, sweet with budding flowers and not too hot. The humidity waiting in the wings but not yet present. By Memorial Day June is not just knocking at the door but full force body slamming it. Humidity has taken over. The heat has picked up and I’ve given in and turned on the AC. Damn you southern summer. I am not strong enough to keep the windows open.

May, as always, proved to be the best month of the year so far.

We went to the aquarium not once, but twice! (Thank you year long membership!) We finally checked out the Children’s Museum which proved to be a huge hit (more on that tiny adventure later).

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Tiny crab

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Standard post-aquarium position

The family trekked to Winston to see my mom, a trip that included a lot of nostalgia cleaning out her attic, walks in my favorite places and the best fried chicken.

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I got another year older, which is one of my favorite activities. I’m glad it doesn’t happen more than once a year but I’m very grateful to continue on this journey!

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Our garden is starting to show life. Our yard is in bloom. We’ve already been to the pool twice, which is proving popular with Haines.

My dad came for a visit, a long overdue trip! As he lives overseas, he hadn’t gotten to see Haines since he was still new to the world. Not surprisingly he immediately took to his Granddaddy.

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Haines is talking more and more each day, imitating all the words we say to him. Baby #2 is growing away (as am I) and I’ve started to feel him kick and roll around. The summer is off to an incredible start.

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Why We Chose to Find out the Sex

We didn’t know Haines was a boy before he was born. I loved the surprise of it all. I loved the anticipation of finding out. I loved avoiding gifts decorated with trucks or tutus. A lot of people told me they needed to know the sex of their babies to prepare. Prepare for what? It’s a baby. It’s only opinions are about milk (now!), diapers (faster, I hate this!), temperature and being held (NEVER put me down fool!). They don’t care about the room decor or if the onesies you choose are considered more feminine or masculine. This soapbox ramble can go on and on but I’ve already shared most of my feelings on this previously.

Despite feeling pretty strongly that not finding out is awesome, this time I wanted to know. I wanted to be able to picture the baby and more easily imagine them as part of our lives. I want it to feel less surreal. Perhaps, it is naive to think knowing the sex will make a difference and yet I found myself asking to know the sex at our ultrasound regardless. I just wanted more information. If there’s anything to know about this peanut, I want it. Toe count? Yes, please. Belly size? Yes, please. Sex? Okay, I want that too.

If I’m totally honest, I also had a moment of… disbelief and maybe even disappointment when Haines was born and turned out to be a boy. Tyler and I had totally convinced ourselves he would be a girl. For no reason whatsoever, we thought we were definitely having a girl. And when he was placed on my chest, I was shocked. My mental state took a while to recover (as did everything else). I was scared to have a boy, that I wouldn’t know how to connect with him. I feel ashamed that I had that reaction, but it is a part of life and a good lesson to learn about getting your mind set on something that you have no control over! I didn’t want to do that again.

Now, I know that if we had had a girl, then we would not have Haines. And Haines is the best thing to ever happen to us, how could I want anything else?  I also feel strongly that sex tells us very little about what a person will be like. It might inform certain things later on, but not their hobbies or passions. Not their personality. Not who they’ll love or how they’ll love. Not the things I can’t wait to know about them.

So this fall, we’ll be adding… a little boy to our family! Yes, I’m bummed my carefully selected girl name will go unused but I’m ready to start brainstorming others! Baby boy, your mom, dad and big brother anxiously await you. We can’t wait to lay eyes on your precious self.

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Tiny tootsies!

New Mama Mantras

There is nothing about motherhood that is easy. Even when it is relatively simple, even when it is straightforward, even when there are no complications, it is tiring and tough. Joyful, in a deep and incomparable way, but also tough.

I’ve started going to prenatal yoga again (cannot recommend enough!) which re-introduced me to the use of mantras to help me get perspective and calm the … down.

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Let Go//

These are the words that got me through labor. With every contraction I would breath deeply, inhale let, exhale go. But these words have served me well in the rough moments of new motherhood. Being a parent is frustrating. Babies get tired and cranky but can’t tell you what they want. They refuse foods you claim are their favorite.

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On Tuesday he loves Mexican food, on Friday he throws it on the ground. 

Everything is temporary//

This applies to the good and bad. In early childhood especially, everything is temporary. Breastfeeding is incredibly taxing and then suddenly it’s over. The moment you get used to a routine, your baby outgrows it. A bad attitude just needs a nap time. Baby’s favorite food ends up being given to the dog. Sickness takes over your world but only lasts a few hours, a few days. Teething seems endless, then the drool stops and another tooth is in. The constant internal discourse of “who am I now?” quietly dissipates.

Balance is about riding the fluctuations//

My yoga instructor recently shared this while we were practicing tree pose. Perhaps this statement seems obvious to you but I felt like she had smacked me in the face with her words. I have always lived and acted as though having balance as meant everything in its place, everything perfect when it is really about riding waves, flailing around and staying on the board. Why can’t I remember this in the moment? Here’s to trying.

This pregnancy is moving right along- only one week until we have our anatomy scan! I’m starting to feel movement and little kicks which is the best part of being pregnant. But I can tell my energy (and therefore sometimes attitude) is lacking so I am looking to weekly prenatal yoga, on top of increasing my other forms of exercise, as well as my new found/re-found mama mantras to keep me going.

And naps. Also a lot of naps.

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Can That Jam!: How to host a canning party

A few weeks ago, my new favorite thing in the world began. Hanging out with friends, new and familiar, and learning to make stuff. I’d been admiring a friend’s macrame creations on Instagram and she FINALLY offered to show a few of her admirers how to make macrame plant holders. (FYI it’s easy as long as you’re relatively focused. This is hard for me.)

After I posted some photos of my newly canned strawberry jam, she suggested I return the favor and host a jamming session. As you can imagine, I did not hesitate.

But there’s only so much traditional strawberry jam I really need in my life so we voted and opted to take it up a notch to strawberry balsamic black pepper jam. I had never heard of such a jam but after googling “fancy strawberry jam” I repeatedly came back to this notion. Before you wrinkle your nose at my jam, you should know it doesn’t taste peppery or like balsamic. It just tastes deeper and richer than normal strawberry jam. It was a hit.

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1// The first thing you need when hosting a canning session is fantastic snacks. I thought I was doing pretty good by purchasing cheese and crackers but my guests took it up a notch. Check out this spread!

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2// Then you should designate a notetaker. Canning is not intuitive and the directions are important. If you have a bunch of people over then socializing may take over and they’ll never know how to do this again unless you provide details.

3//Choose a very reliable recipe. Unless you’re awesome at this, don’t make up your own recipe. Because botulism.

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If you have chickens, save them the strawberry tops!

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And then we decided to make a second batch. 17 cups of strawberries were sacrificed to make jam on this day. 

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Sometimes my house is cleaner than this. Not on this day, obviously. 

I chose a recipe from Serious Eats which did not disappoint! Here’s the basics:

Ingredients

  • 7 cups sugar
  • 5 cups coarsely chopped strawberries (from about 3 farm stand boxes)
  • 1/4 cup best quality balsamic vinegar
  • 1 heaping teaspoon freshly ground black pepper
  • One (1.75-ounce) package regular powdered fruit pectin
  • 1/4 teaspoon unsalted butter
  • mason jars, brand new lids, rings
  1.  Boil your jars for ten minutes then let them sit in hot, simmering water. Your jars should be piping hot when you fill them.
  2. Measure the sugar into a large bowl and set aside.
  3. Combine the strawberries, balsamic vinegar, and black pepper in a large, heavy-bottomed pot. To get a nice consistency, mash the strawberries in the pot.
  4. Whisk in the pectin until dissolved. (FYI: 1.75 ounces of pectin is 3.5 tablespoons. Google says so.)
  5. Add the butter and bring the mixture to a boil over medium-high heat.
  6. Add the sugar all at once and return the mixture to a boil, stirring constantly. Boil hard for one minute.
  7. Remove the pot from the heat and skim any foam from the surface of the jam with a cold metal spoon.
  8. Ladle the jam into hot sterilized jars. Leave a quarter inch of headspace in the jars. Keep the edges of the jar clean so it will seal properly, because botulism. I dip a paper towel in my hot water pot to use to clean the edges.
  9. Process the jars in a hot water bath for 10 minutes.

Pro tips:

  • Follow the directions exactly. You don’t want to double or add extra strawberries or go rogue. Your jam will not have the right consistency!
  • I always boil one or two extra jars. If your berries have a high water content, you may need them.
  • If you forget your potato masher for smashing strawberries, you can use a large bottomed jar with a decent handle, such as white balsamic vinegar.
  • Post really good photos of Instagram during the process. Your followers will thank you. #influencer
  • When you put the rims on the jars, only put them finger tight- AKA using two fingers you be able to tighten and loosen it. Everyone wants to use their super strength to tighten the jars, resist that urge. They might not release the air inside and seal otherwise. Then you have to put them in the fridge and eat them up in the next few weeks.
  • You can reuse jars and rings but you cannot reuse lids. Once they’ve sealed a jar, retire them.
  • FYI: It can take up to 24 hours for the lids to pop. So while you can tap, touch and look at them lots you should otherwise, leave them alone. I like to hit the tops with a spoon, because you can hear if it popped. If it thumps in a hollow way, it has not yet popped. If it just kind of thuds, like a car hitting a wall, then it has popped. You can also tell by looking, because the popped ones will have a bit of a divot in the middle, and the un-popped ones will still have a tiny hill. Another option is to try to open it but without using your full strength. You should always be able to open it with your full strength, because otherwise what is the point.
  • It can take a week for the jam to fully set, but you can eat it as soon as you want. If it is too runny, put it on pancakes or ice cream.
  • How do you know if the jam has botulism? You don’t. So wash your hands, sterilize everything and if it doesn’t seal, don’t leave it on the shelf!
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Only a few jam makers are captured in this moment. I think we all feel like this photo is flattering. I have since gotten a haircut. And washed my hair. And cleaned my kitchen. 

Turning 32: Acceptance, Love and Hope

In only a month I will be 32. Today I am in an unfamiliar city, which is pretty much my favorite thing in the world and I am enjoying it tremendously, despite having cried three times already for missing my baby.

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My boys without me

I am listening to two adorable baristas discuss giving up sugar. They are tiny, young, friendly and energetic. One is petite with a pixie look and a valley girl intonation. My 20-year-old self wouldn’t have tolerated her in conversation but completely envied her style. The other has an androgynous look and I am drawn to her smile instantly. My twenty-year old self would have followed her all around campus. I’m still eavesdropping.

But in a month I will be 32 which somehow feels more significant when I turned 30. When I turned 30 I was pregnant for the first time which overshadowed everything else. Two years later I am pregnant again, less overwhelmed by the enormity and more…surrendered? My life, in a long term think-about-the-future sort of way feels paused while I create new life, someone else’s life. My mind has shrunk- unable to take in much beyond my house and the people who live there. I know that since becoming pregnant two years ago I have not been as good of a friend as I once was. I forget birthdays and don’t return emails, never on purpose but simply because. 

I no longer write, travel or create crafts often- all of which are my favorite things. There is a half-finished gray knit hat in a plastic bin in my attic among piles of yarn waiting for me, hoping I will come back for it. But I don’t have the time or money (two things to enjoy traveling) or the energy (required of writing or crafting). Although I sometimes long to do one or many of these activities, mostly I don’t care. It’s become normal but in waiting Haines grow and become more independent, I have seen the light. It won’t always be like this. This is just a phase of life where I will do me, as best as I can do me, and this is enough even though it won’t look anything like before.

Normally in a new city I would be racing around, walking every street. Today I worked remotely, found amazing Mediterranean food, bought two books in the book store where I am now very unhurried. I am sipping tea from an actual teacup and saucer. The afternoon light is casting a gentle flow across old wood floors in the café and I’m admiring the energy of nearby baristas while I write.  

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This is a sign of my age right? When taking time to be slow is just as important as seeing the sights? Then again, bookstores have always been “the sights” for me. I am old enough to have only bought 2 books (it’s called living on a budget) but not old enough to know I should go ahead and buy all the books, because books are invaluable. 

I believe the new year really starts on your birthday. I always look to the new calendar year as a fresh start but birthdays are far more inspiring. So what do I want for my next year? What do I hope for 32?

I hope for a healthy pregnancy and a healthy baby.

I hope for calm in the face of chaos.

I hope to have a few moments like this one where I feel contented in everything, fully knowing that all is not perfect.

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Ten years of friendship

I hope to spend time with friends and have a few laughs. I hope to hold hands with my husband after the bab(ies) have gone to bed.

I hope to read a few good books and enjoy a few warm summer nights.

And if I am lucky, I hope to get a few good nights of sleep.

All in all, I think this could be a wonderful year.