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.

Prenatal Yoga and Natural Childbirth (Or Prenatal Yoga & Surviving Pregnancy)

I have two pregnant friends right now which has given quite a few opportunities to discuss how much I love prenatal yoga. But clearly not enough or I wouldn’t feel the need to bring it up here.

Being pregnant had its magical moments but overall I can’t say I loved it. Going to prenatal yoga was one of my favorite things about being pregnant if that says anything.

When I shared my excitement for my weekly yoga outing at work, they were… skeptical. They told me to keep my patchouli and mantras to myself. But I just can’t! I must admit, there have been times in the past and in prenatal yoga that I wasn’t wild about. I can only Om so much before you’ve lost me. In a past life the yoga studio I attended played fun, retro music while we worked through poses. It was hip to the max. My prenatal studio, Longwave Yoga in Wilmington, was more traditional with what any skeptic would describe as new age, world music.

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You have to move past all that.

  1. At a certain in pregnant you begin to deal with a lot of physical discomfort and mental anxiety. For me the mental anxiety began almost immediately. Here’s a brief synopsis of my brain during pregnancy:
    • First trimester: Are we making the right choice? Am I going to lose all my freedom? What’s going to happen to my identity?
    • Second trimester: We’re going to be terrible parents.
    • Third trimester: I have to give birth?! I changed my mind.

It was something like that. Physically, my pregnancy was relatively easy but it was still hard. I felt sore, uncomfortable, weak. I started waddling pretty early on. Yoga was the only place I felt I could clear my mind for a few minutes and relax my body. I went every week from about 28 to 39 weeks and eventually it didn’t relieve my physical discomfort anymore. At that point though I had very little motivation to get off the couch and it provided what I needed to get out of the house.

2. When you’re pregnant, all of the sudden you don’t quite fit in the world. Pretty much everything is labeled- pregnant women should use caution or avoid. No alcohol, no hot tubs, exercise class instructors get nervous when you walk in and so on. My work chair was painful no matter how many pillows I brought from home. Prenatal yoga was the only place where it was meant for me. I surrounded my mat with bolsters and blocks to make my poses easier and support my big ol’ belly. The instructor knew what modifications to make to help me and she also knew what was on my mind. It was a safe place to cry through my poses when I needed or just hold my bump and breath for a little while.

3. Even though I was 30 when I had Haines I didn’t know many other young moms or pregnant women. I was desperate to be around women who were going through this same experience or who had just come out the other side. It was so nice to be around women who all understand some element of what I was dealing with, even if just for one quiet hour a week.

4. This is the kicker- the breathing I learned in yoga is the only reason I could survive my contractions. I had wanted to have a natural birth and Haines turned out to be on board for that. He was able to keep things under 12 hours from first contraction to his appearance in the world and I didn’t reach my breaking point until about 10 1/2 or 11 hours. While all the exercise and poses I learned in yoga definitely helped me for the incredibly physical intense experience of delivery the breathing got me through the pain. With each contraction I breathed in slowly silently saying “Let” and then exhaled slowly “go”. Over and over again this was the chant that got me through it. Not the heating pad, not the bath, not the tennis ball on my back, not my husband’s encouragement, not music, nothing but “let go” and slow breathing. Well, that and the living room recliner where I labored and squeezing Tyler’s hand when things got bad.

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I ended up pretty much living in this chair after H was born. 

Obviously yoga isn’t for everyone. Neither is natural childbirth…or childbirth at all for that matter. But if you’re pregnant and looking for relief or even remotely considering non-medicated birth, it’s worth your time to check it out. It’s been a year since I last went and I still think about it often.

 

Pass the Gratitude

I normally anticipate Thanksgiving with a bit of caution. These last few years it has come with a sudden tsunami size wave of homesickness for Austin. Every year our friends hosted a huge annual Friendsgiving and while many people would drop by before or after (or both) their family celebrations this was always my main event. I haven’t celebrated the holiday with family in so long I only really associate it with friends. It modern times it has become simply a celebration of gratitude…and gluttony. I am so grateful to have found good friends I would venture to call family. Imagine, people who treat you well even though they’re not related to you!

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This year November did not bring homesickness (well, just a twinge maybe). The negative in me attributes this to having been sick all week when I was due to feel the biggest surge of Austin love but it’s obviously little bubba.

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I’m worried about a thousand things…

  • Is Haines choking on a leaf from our floor?
  • How will we have light if he keeps trying to unplug all our appliances?
  • How much longer can I keep him out of the bathroom trash?

…but Thanksgiving hasn’t occurred to me yet. We’re going to a friend’s house where I don’t care what they’re cooking. I’m sure it’s tasty and warm and feels like the holidays. Normally I would spend all day cooking my favorite foods but today I made a dish that I could live without. I feel well for the first time in four days and I spent the day playing with Haines.

Now I’m surrounded by napping boys and a sweet pup. Happy Thanksgiving.

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Also, pretty dang thankful for this guy. 

Ten Months Old?! or Where did October go?

I haven’t blogged in for-fucking-ever. No really, it’s been weeks. This has happened before (hello, new baby!) but normally I’m obsessively thinking about blogging. Every time something happens I think that’s a post! Blog it! That’s still been happening, but…pretty minimally.

I’m not sure where the mental shift began. I just started living in the present which feels pretty positive except I’m not taking the time to reflect on it. That sounds hippie dippy, I’ll admit, but I like taking my time and working out my feelings on life in a blog post to be read by approximately 12-25 people. It’s how I shared my travels through Australia. It’s how I made it through my twenties in Austin and it’s how I make the transition into being a mom.

Being in charge of someone else’s ability to survive on this planet initially felt like quite a shock. Everyone describes it as this burst of uncontrollable love but I definitely approached it with more caution. The weight of Haines’ entire world resting on my shoulders felt, as it should probably, immense. Now, I’ve built up my mom muscles. My shoulders feel stronger, ready to help his world rather than suffer under the weight of it. I know they’ll only get stronger as his needs become more complex. (At least I hope they do.)

Still he’s past the ten month mark and things barely feel normal. Being a parent is just starting to seem routine – making decisions for another person, providing their needs, scheduling my life around them, etc. I still can’t help but think, “There’s more to this?! Oh, dear.” If you’re the parent of a grown child (or I am your grown child) you should rightfully say, “You ain’t seen nothin’ yet.”

This October has been BUSY. I took Haines camping sans baby daddy which was… difficult. Pro parent camping tip: bring a pack n’ play. Don’t think your baby will sleep soundly on a sleeping pad. That’s a lie you’ll regret telling yourself. It was also hotter and more humid than I was expecting so my patience was thin for all things.

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First ones up at camp!

But Tyler and I also went camping sans baby for one night to celebrate our anniversary, which was amazing. My mom drove up for the weekend and watched H while we went out to eat Friday night and then while we camped. We were only gone for about 24 hours but it was so relaxing. Sure we tried to take a boat through low tide in the world’s most shallow waterways and had to drag the boat a long ways but there was also reading on the beach, cocktails in plastic cups and listening to the ocean while we fell asleep. And baby H was safe and sound with his Nana.

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Admittedly the next morning I was almost immediately ready to go. It was a struggle to enjoy the sunrise when I wanted to get home so badly. Next month we’re taking another trip sans baby for two nights- hopefully we can enjoy it!

To top the month off we visited one of my very first friends in life in Charlottesville. She hadn’t met Haines and I hadn’t met her newest, Miss Maebh (pronounced Mave). It was so incredible to see actual hills and fall colors and feel crisp, cool air. I love my life in Wilmington but if I could just move our house, jobs and friends to the mountains, I wouldn’t hesitate.

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In another news, H is full on walking now. He can also climb stairs (ah!), clap his hands and give kisses. So, it’s been a month.

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Baby’s first Halloween: Skunk!