Baby’s First Year Survival Tools

One of the things expecting mothers always panic about is all the things. You feel you need all the things! In reality, you won’t need half of what you end up with when you have a baby. A lot of people will try to give you things. You’ll most likely accept everything  thinking, how am I to know what I need? You don’t, so cut yourself some slack. I don’t know what you need either, but I do know what I used to get through HEB’s first year. If we have another baby we’ll probably need totally different things! But hopefully not because we’re not buying anything.

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Newborn hell (or 0 to 3 months):

I have to be honest, those newborn days that everyone (without a newborn) glows over… those are pretty intense. Even if you are not breastfeeding you may start to think, surely this is impossible! Horribly enough we all started off as extremely needy, up all hours of the night, feeding every 2 hours, adorable little babies.

  • Netflix– get it, gift it, don’t judge yourself for binging it.
  • Chicco Keyfit stroller caddy– We loved this for the ability to plop our carseat right in and start strolling without ever disturbing our sleeping babe. There’s also tons of storage underneath so I could throw his diaper bag in there. I preferred using this for grocery shopping (heavy things in the caddy, light things in a basket) rather than a cart when he was small.
  • A breastfeeding station- Find yourself a Boppy or a Brest Friend or whatever and keep it near your comfiest chair or couch. Near that fill a basket with granola bars or easy to eat snacks, your kindle or your TV remote and remember to bring water when you’re sitting down to feed. Two minutes in and you’ll suddenly remember you’re DYING of thirst.
  • Rock n Play– Haines slept in the Rock n Play for the first 4 months of his life and absolutely loved it. Admittedly though we never put the batteries in so it didn’t rock him on its own. I would reach out and rock him to sleep in the middle of the night if needed, but never used the actual function. I was afraid we wouldn’t be able to stop.

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3-6 months:

This was a pretty tough time for me. I went back to work and Haines’ sleep had really gotten worse so the level of fatigue was high. At the same time though H started to interact with us. He was alert and playful. It really lifted me up.

  • Bouncy chair– This is something we didn’t know we really needed. It was a hand-me-down (as is everything else) and I wasn’t even sure why we would want it. Um… you want to carry this lightweight all over your house so you can get things done! This is what baby lays in while you cook dinner, go to the bathroom, type your blogs- all the important things.
  • Frozen meals- I had fixed some items in advance and my mom and Natalie also stocked my freezer as well. The first few weeks/months we were the beneficiaries of a meal train but that comes to an end well before the fatigue does. Having the world’s easiest meals on hand is very helpful. I also froze muffins to help me with my constant need to snack.
  • Ergo– We started out with a 2nd hand Chicco carrier which worked okay, but it was a huge upgrade when a friend gave us an Ergo. After a little while you start to want options for going out and having some sort of baby wearing device is a must. (Also, I tried a wrap and found it to be an enormous pain the tush.)

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6-9 months:

The first turning point! Everything was fun during these few months (minus sleep training and ear infections). Haines was excited for everything- food, Clara, being outside. There were also so many milestones during this time. He sat up, crawled and walked all between 7 and 9 months.

  • Kiddo food trays- I LOVED using these to make Haines’ baby food. I made all of his food at home which was much easier than I anticipated. When he napped on the weekend, I would dump all the veggies into a steamer before blending in our Nutri-bullet. Any blender will do. The only downside here- HEB moved on from purees pretty quickly. He wanted to feed himself!
  • Baby proofing- This turned out to be much more in depth than I would have expected. We had to get rid of several pieces of furniture that we deemed being too annoying with a baby to keep. If you’re going to try to limit your “No! Don’t touch that!” conversations than I will suggest going beyond outlet covers and cabinet locks. Every trash can in your house should have a heavy lid, your toilet paper should be moved near the ceiling and any knick-knacks resting within 3 feet of the floor should be moved. Probably just get rid of your blinds now.
  • Baby Einstein Take Along Tunes Musical Toy- For months this was Haines favorite toy. It could entertain him indefinitely. This is probably the only thing we ever tore up the house looking for.
  • Nursery rhymes- Start practicing now. This was the only way we could get perk up a cranky baby during diaper changes or going into his carseat.

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9-12 months:

This was the second turning point. We have a routine. We can mostly anticipate Haines likes and dislikes. He’s fussier and harder to console but also easier to distract. Children are weird.

  • Alphaprints book & The Itsy Bitsy Snowman are Haines two favorite books right now. They are guaranteed to lift his mood!
  • Bathmat– If your baby wants to crawl all around the bathtub then I recommend getting a non-slip bathmat for the tub. It has cut down on his falls tremendously and ours has a hook so it can hang on the shower to dry.
  • Spoutless sippy cup– Haines has struggled with all the other cups we’ve given him but took to this one right away! (Full disclosure: we still use a bottle most of the time, but this cup has helped a lot).

 

If you’re stressing about needing all the things, don’t. Get a carseat. Figure out a safe place for the baby to sleep. Buy a few diapers (and expect many more in gifts). Collect every hand me down you can. You’ll figure out the rest.

And remember, for better or for worse, this is only temporary.

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2018: New Year’s Resolutions

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I know I said I was sticking to a theme for the new year but let’s get real, I have a lot of goals for 2018. I’ve been reading all over the place that I shouldn’t have a lot of unattainable goals. Stick to goals you can truly impact and accomplish. These are a mix of goals I’d define as both stretch and within reach (maybe).

Personal Finances: For 2018 I hope to save $5,000. I had similar goals for 2017 but it turned out to be a much more expensive year than I anticipated. Guess what guys, paying for daycare- pricey. Also, if you’ve never had a baby before you probably don’t know how much babies cost. This is totally fair and I probably should have factored this in to my goals. Once someone told me that babies are cheap when they’re very little. Um… clearly you didn’t pay for formula, daycare or diapers.

And in reality, like most people we’re still learning how to be financially savvy. Tyler calls 2018 “The Year of Smart” and this definitely applies to our money. We want to make smart decisions. That’s pretty much all you can ask for. (Dang, this should really be my goal. But I want to save $5k!)

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Home: In the land of new baby, the first priority to drop is cleaning the house. This creates a constant cycle where we don’t pick up after ourselves and every 2-3 weeks I freak out because I can no longer tolerate the state of our home. Surely, there’s a better way to live.

So this year I just want to do some pretty basic picking up after myself. Tyler and I have starting washing our dishes and fully wiping down the kitchen after each meal. This may seem like adulting 101 but I feel like we’re relearning every aspect of life right now. We’re putting the laundry away the same day it got washed  and cleaning the bathroom on a regular basis.

Basically, it’ll take nothing short of a miracle to maintain this but I’m still holding out hope!

Professional Life: I wear several different hats in my role at work, because it is a role that constantly evolves. This is awesome as it allows me to be challenged but I often feel pulled in several directions and constantly worry about dropping one of the many priorities I am juggling. I think this is a pretty common experience for individuals who have just reached the point in their career where they’re truly challenged.

Now it’s just about being able to balance my priorities, learn some project management skills and advocate for myself. Sometimes you have to say- TOO MUCH! This is a goal I don’t expect to reach, just aim for. I’m growing, y’all.

Mama Life: The number one thing I want to do as a mom is be present. Yes, I want to be present as a friend, a daughter or a wife but being present as a mama is my number one. This is harder than I would have thought. Haines can be…boring. It’s not his fault- he’s a baby! He’s adorable to watch and he just started to ask me to read him books which makes my heart explode but sometimes I’d like to have a conversation that isn’t, “Don’t put that in your mouth!” or “What a big boy you are!”

So being present  is equally about being present when we’re together and taking breaks that allow me to focus on him. This weekend Tyler was off work. We took Haines to a party on Saturday where Tyler was primary baby watcher and Sunday I got to go to a coffee shop for two hours with Better Than Never Blogger, Chrissy. This little moments are what excites me to run back to my baby bubba.

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Haines after a run. 

Health: Almost everyone looks to the new year with a health goal. Tyler has started running which naturally has amped up my own fitness routine. We RAN 3.2 miles on Saturday (with breaks). Although I do have periods where fitness falls down the list of priorities, most of the time I feel pretty good about that area of my life.

Right now, it’s caffeine. Every since this baby entered my life, my soda intake has skyrocketed. I don’t drink coffee so this is my main fuel for life. No matter what I tell myself at the beginning of the week, by Sunday I’ve drank 3-4 Dr. Peppers. Pre-pregnancy I had one a week. I need to get back to that.

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Little Ol’ Me: There’s one last goal I want to keep in motion for 2018. For a long time, this has been in the forefront of my interactions but I’m not yet where I want to be. The goal is simple- communicate honestly, openly and regularly.

Don’t let things build up. Don’t sugarcoat unless absolutely necessary. Give of my authentic self whenever possible.

Goals:

  • Save $5k
  • Clean the house
  • Learn balance at work
  • Be present
  • Drink less soda
  • Communicate regularly and honestly.

When I lay it all out, it seems like a lot. I probably should have stuck with Tiny Adventures. Here we come 2018!!

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The Year of Tiny Adventures

Now we’re in 2018. It’s a brand new year and we’ll encounter brand new challenges that will be tougher and easier than keeping a baby safe and well from birth to 12 months. (So I hear.)

I’ve started to have a little more time to breathe now and it seems like my brain waves are firing a little faster (no guarantees). Tempted as always to create unrealistic goals for the new year, I’ve settled on a single idea.

(Okay, I’m lying. I have a lot of resolutions but I’m trying to ignore them. I want to just have a theme for my year instead of a lot of lofty goals that are unrealistic to set.)

I want to have more adventures, but to do so I need to see the adventure in everyday things. Haines is 13 months and I work on someone else’s schedule. Hiking Machu Pichu or snorkeling foreign seas aren’t in my near future. It can be hard to appreciate adventures in baby world. Haines primarily finds fun in eating leaves and other tidbits he finds on the ground. But to grow him and me we have to get out of the house.

Welcome 2018: The Year of Tiny Adventures

My goal is to explore Wilmington in a way that keeps me outside and interacting with others. These are the two things that maintain my sanity. That and the occasional baby break but sometimes that’s not an option.

January’s adventures include:

A trip to the Fort Fisher Aquarium– big news, we’re members now! Haines got a membership for his birthday and we plan to take advantage. His attention only held for about 30 of the 60 minutes we were there but I consider that a win.

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Wilmington Coffee Crawl– I don’t actually drink coffee but I like coffee shops and anything involving strolling a baby around downtown. I hope the weather holds out!

Also, I started using Peanut which I’m super intimidated by. Has anyone tried this? It’s like Tinder but it’s for Moms and is just to make friends. Wish me luck!

So, here we go- a little attitude change, a little planning and a lot of (tiny) adventures!

 

So long 2017

It goes without saying that 2017 was the biggest year of my life (so far). December 2016 we added a whole addition person to the world. It is very strange to think that we created a person and added him to our world. He wasn’t there before but now he is and life will never be the same.

This year our tiny person has gone from barely understanding how to feed himself to a person with preferences. He chases our dog around the yard. He prefers peas over sweet potatoes. His stuffed animals seem to freak him out a bit. He loves to dance to music and clap his hands. He also pulls hair and bites my shoulder way too often so it’s not all fun and games. He’s crazy active and I’m terrified that he’s going to wear me out before he can even talk.

But it isn’t all about HEB. There are two other people in our house who are also irreversibly changed. I can’t speak for Tyler and what becoming a dad is like. I only know that this life is so much harder than before. But I like this life. I love where we are. I couldn’t imagine any other.

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Capturing Baby’s First Year: A Calendar for Dad and Relatives!

Last Christmas I scrounged together an idea of a gift for Tyler just in time. It was to spend the day canoeing (we never went). Haines was only eleven days old on Christmas day and gifts were low on my priorities. Despite all that Christmas week last year I had a lightbulb moment- the best possible gift for a new dad.

It wasn’t an expensive gift and those expenses I did incur were mostly optional. The only difficulties were planning and planning is hard because it involved a baby so buck up.

Each month I dressed Haines up as something or someone that Tyler loves and create a calendar. It was a challenge to come up with 12 feasible ideas at first but once I involved a couple people, the ideas started flowing!

I had intended for the ideas to correlate with the months of the year but… that got a little complicated. I had grand plans that I would take the picture on the day he turned 1, 2, 3, months old etc. but that quickly became unrealistic (like, almost immediately).

January- Fishing

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January was a struggle- there’s a learning curve with this people! I set a fishing scene- blue blanket, gummy worms and a fish at the end of a homemade pole. Every time I see some sleeping newborn in a fishing basket looking perfect, I think…. this is why newborn photographers get paid the big bucks.

February- Bookworm

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Okay, I admit it. This month was for me. I love a baby bookworm. BUT I used Tyler’s favorite children’s book, Where the Wild Things Are, so it’s all good. This was one of the easiest photos to do. I popped out the lenses in some free, cheapo sunglasses I had and paired with a onesie made at my baby shower- done!

March- Baseball

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Tyler’s obsessed with baseball and even bought Haines a tiny Louisville slugger before he was born. I couldn’t get Haines to stop chewing the bat.

April- Chef

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My all time favorite! I ordered a chef’s hat and apron (unnecessary but it came in a set) via Amazon and popped baby HEB in our pressure cooker. He happily sat in that pot for like ten minutes! I threw in a dish towel for color and a wooden spoon to occupy him. Be still my heart!

May- Virginia Tech Hokies fan

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Tyler comes from a Virginia Tech family and his mom used to make these awesome “Mad Hatter” Hokie hats. I requested one and paired it along with one of the THREE Tech onesies we received as a gift for Haines. Three!! That seems insane but Haines was pretty pumped about the whole thing.

June- Golfer

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Tyler used to work on a golf course (okay, several) and is a huge golf fan. I stole one of clubs and this putting practice green thing to make this photo work. Haines is also wearing Tyler’s Masters hat but I couldn’t get that in the picture.

July- Clara

Two years ago we adopted Mrs. Clara, our lab beagle mix. I put Haines in black footie pajamas to match Clara but getting the two in a photo together was the worst! My dog and my baby are too active for this. I had to settle for the only slightly adorable photo we have of the two of them together.

August- Glenn Danzig & Bruce Campbell

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If you’ve never seen Tyler without his shirt off then you probably don’t know he loves Danzig and Bruce Campbell (hint, hint: multiple tattoos). So here we have featured Haines’ Misfits onesies in front of Tyler’s prize Army of Darkness poster with Bruce Campbell.

September- Scuba Diver

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90% of our photos looked like this.

Pro tip: do complicated costumes during months 3-6! Haines was too mobile by the time we got the scuba diver costume. He wouldn’t hold the pacifier in his mouth that I’d blackened with sharpie to look like a respirator. He also wouldn’t keep the goggles on his head. It was a disaster. In the background, I had toy fishes but you’d never know.

October- Beach Baby

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My mom made a onesie out of a T-shirt fromTyler’s job. It’s so stinking cute! You can’t tell but in this picture Haines is on the verge of hysteria. Still, cuteness overload.

November- David Bowie

Tyler is an enormous Bowie fan. So I found a DIY Ziggy Stardust costume on Pinterest and did my best. Yes, face paint would have taken it to the next level but have you tried to put face paint on a ten month old??? It’s challenging, that’s all I’m saying.

December- Snow Bear

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Snow Bear is Tyler’s childhood bear. He’s a VIP in our household and I made Haines a matching outfit. He struggled with sitting still but still managed to be a bit cute and cuddly with Mr. Snow Bear.

Tips for creating your baby calendar:

  • Only take horizontal photos. Vertical photos don’t work on most calendar formats.
  • Three to six months is your baby photography sweet spot. Any outfit that’s complicated should be taken then. Otherwise you’ll have a baby who refuses to suck a pacifier colored to look like scuba respirator or a baby who won’t cuddle with the dog (dog and baby photos will always be difficult).
  • Use large blankets/quilts or sheets for backdrops.
  • Get another person involved if at all possible. You think you can do it, but.. you need help. I involved only a few people. Regrets!
  • Use MPix to put together your calendar. I tried Costco for maximum cost savings but I needed more options to customize what I wanted. MPix ended up being inexpensive but more user-friendly.

There are many ways to capture a baby’s first year but I prefer dressing him up in costumes that may be embarrassing to him one day!

P.S. The calendar was a huge hit with Tyler. 🙂

Baby’s First Birthday: Celebrating Without Going Overboard

December has been a total blur in the best of all ways. In baby land Haines has battled a cold, the switch to milk (and the inevitable tummy troubles that came along with) and his first bout of hand, foot and mouth disease alongside the wonderful parts with visiting family, his first birthday and Christmas travels.

I really didn’t anticipate how excited I was going to be about Haines’ birthday. Once fall hit all of the sudden I was addicted to looking up first birthday parties on Pinterest. Smash cake or cupcakes? Decorations?  Adorable outfit? Luckily for both my sanity and our wallet, even with all my hours on Pinterest I really didn’t want to throw some big bash. I love a party but the best parties in my life have good food and good company. Nothing else needed! Plus, I tend to take my Pinterest fails very personally so no need to go down that road!

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We chose not to give Haines much for his birthday either. Walking through Toys R Us earlier this month it became clear how easy it would be to get wrapped up in buying him everything! But he has kind and generous relatives and friends who have given him gifts and let’s be honest- he’s 12 months old. He prefers gift wrap to gifts. Showering him with gifts isn’t a precedent I’m looking to set.

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Tyler bought him a lifetime coastal fishing license (a present he gleefully wrinkled up and tried to eat) which is only $100 when purchased before age 1. This is more than I wanted to spend but we were working within age constraints. I bought him an activity walker to try to discourage him from pushing our chairs all around the house. It’s pretty darn cute!

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Birthday Cake:

I want Haines to eat all the best things in life but I struggle with feeding him sugar. I know many of you may be rolling your eyes right now but everything for kids is full of sugar. As a full blown sugar fiend myself I just want him to like things besides candy bars and sodas. I definitely grew up on doughnuts and Coke (probably because I was the world’s pickiest child) and if I can help show him a different direction, then all the better. That meant Haines’ birthday was celebrated with a low sugar banana bread cupcake. Don’t worry though, I did make some cream cheese icing. I’m not cruel.

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Haines celebrated his birthday with his uncle- didn’t want him to get left out! 

Outfit:

Every day of Haines’ birthday week I dressed him in my favorite outfits. Puppy dog onesie- check! Denim overalls- check! We would have just kept in this theme for his party but my sister’s family sent this adorable birthday boy outfit!

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Food:

The best part of any celebration is the food. Keeping in line with Tyler and I’s favorites, I made the best homemade white queso, pumpkin bread, raw oysters on the half shell (essential for any  1 year’s old birthday- right? Tyler just wanted an excuse to eat the oysters he and his family had harvested) and other food that I thought was essential but promptly forgot about. And beer, obvi.

Fun:

Some grown-ups played cornhole in the backyard while the older kiddos played with Haines’ toys in the  living room. What did Haines do? He took a nap almost the entire time. Babies, am I right?

Luckily he woke up in time to say goodbye to most of his guests and eat his cupcake like a champ. (Or like his mama…)

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Baby’s First Year: Surviving the Boring, Busy, Magical Days

On Thursday Haines will be a year old. No really, a whole 12 months will have passed since his tiny peanut self entered the world. It’s insane! I see this quote on a lot of parenting sites, “The days are long but the years are short.”

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Babies are boring. Really boring at first. Yes, they’re incredible to look at and completely adorable but also, they can’t do anything. They can’t really lift their heads, eat without assistance or put themselves to bed. I spent all my first days in a fog of wonder (Who made this baby? Did I make this baby? Oh, how neat…), fatigue (Who will teach this baby to sleep? Anyone? I’ll pay you.), and boredom (Hey baby, do you have any hobbies?).

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It gets better of course. Haines walks, babbles and plays now. He doesn’t just cute yawn or stretch anymore. He plays all over the house. Sure, it doesn’t entertain me as long as it entertains him but I laugh and watch all the same.

Even in the most boring of moments, baby life also feels incredibly busy. Not that long ago I was breastfeeding every 60 minutes. So on one hand maintaining a tiny life, and on the other hand sitting and watching back to back episodes of A Chef’s Life. Now I often feel as though I only leave the house for work but I’m also chasing Haines constantly around. We play peek-a-boo, read the same book, play with toys, walk around the yard, run an errand, fix meals and snacks and so on. The only down time is those few precious naps where I typically catch up on some aspect of life. Nothing stops and yet nothing really happens either.

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A very cute baby being as exciting as he can muster. 

I’ve been surprised at how small our world has become. Our living room rug has become the center of all things. It’s where Haines turned over, crawled and walked for the first time. All the while, both of us impatiently waiting for the next move, cameras at the ready. Now I pile his toys along the edge in baskets and he drags them out all over the floor.

At times our small world has felt claustrophobic. I have felt less connected to my friends and family but also can’t remember to reach out. I can’t remember to call anyone very often. Sometimes I don’t remember to leave the house.

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In other ways our world has opened up. While I have always had sympathy for others I have not always had empathy. This is growing rapidly in me, every day as I experience life both as a parent and through Haines. The way I view things, the way I register information… I’m not a different person but I’m also not the same.

I knew I would love Haines but I really didn’t understand what that would be like. When I was pregnant I felt affection for the little fish swimming around in my belly but my love had not yet developed. When he was born even I didn’t have that immediate love at first sight moment that so many mothers describe. I wasn’t in awe of him. I was scared and overwhelmed. It sometime on day three or four when I realized I was in love with Haines and it was when he went into the hospital that I felt the place in my body where we are connected. It’s deep in my chest and when he hurts in big or small ways I can feel it contort and tug and yank me to him. I imagine it will remain forever, no matter how far away he goes from me one day (an idea that I love and hate all at the same time).

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Happy 7 months baby!

So yes, the days are unbelievably long, boring and busy. And yet despite all that I’m not looking for anything else. I’m not wishing for a new life. I’m not perfectly content but I’m glad to be here. I wish it was easier to go see a movie or get basic life chores done. I wish running errands was less a project management task and a little more spontaneous, but that’s okay.

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I refuse to apologize for needing a break or wanting to leave the house alone. Nothing less should be expected. I will not pretend this year has been all joys. It has made clearer my weaknesses. It has made clearer my strengths. It has tested and improved my patience. It has pushed my marriage in ways I both did and did not expect. But I choose to have a baby with a good person and a good partner. I feel lucky and grateful to be in this place. Above all else I have a healthy child which is the luckiest thing of all.

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Photo credit: Kathryn Falconer

 

So, we made it! We survived. This year old little guy is starting the next year of his life and I can’t wait for (most) every moment of it.