The messy beautiful world of parenting

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We’re in this sweet spot right now of knowing that we’re growing our family but also having a moment to catch our breath and to think about what we’ve learned in the first 21 months as parents. Our little unit is incomplete and simultaneously so very complete. It’s a happy place. And, at times, it gives us those precious chances to stop and breathe. When I have those, I tend to reflect, so here I am, breathing and reflecting.

I have a few friends right now either right on the cusp of having a baby, beginning the process of thinking about having a baby, or floundering through those first few weeks as new parents. I avoid telling them how much their world will change and how little they will sleep and how there will be times when they feel like they have nothing more to give (and then somehow find more) and how every ounce of their world will revolve around this new little being for a while and…I could go on and on, but those things don’t help. Those things are everywhere the new parent looks, reads, walks, talks, goes. And, again, they don’t help.

What did…or does…help me is the notion that they will feel emotions they never knew existed, both good and bad. The good will include love beyond what they ever knew possible, the laughter of a tiny soul as it stares into your eyes, the pure joy of a tiny human. Daily adventures in the simple and new discoveries in the most mundane of situations. Supreme feelings of accomplishment over taking a shower. It all counts. The bad feels like your soul being pulled in too many directions, giving when there is nothing left to give, not enough hours in the day, not enough patience in the world, and the utter helplessness of just not knowing what to do for a sick baby, a crying baby, a tired self.

The emotions are raw and pure and far less controlled than we grow to be in our single adult lives. They are often dictated by situations outside of our power, tiny little people about which we know so much yet at the same time know so little. They test us. Challenge us. And allow for so much growth and learning in such a small amount of time that in retrospect it all makes sense that our worlds feel so frazzled at the time.

This morning on my drive to work, I found myself wondering when I last learned something new. My first thought brought me back to learning to drive a stick-shift (when I was pregnant with James), and immediately thereafter I thought, that was it!? The last time I learned something new was two years ago?! And then I laughed at the lunacy because the reality of my world right now - and the blessing and the curse of the first child – is that James and I learn something new every single day, and more often than not, we learn it together.

I think that’s something that struck me only recently: for the entirety of our shared existence on this planet, James and I will forever encounter new situations with each other for the very first time. There is no prior parenting knowledge from the first kid to guide decisions here. There is just the gut. And instinct. And, sure, prior experience with James. But in reality, there is just the two of us, plotting our own little course through the world (don’t worry, we invited Chris along for the ride too – sometimes we let him steer). And to me, there is so much beauty and joy and freedom in that notion: we’re both novices, and being novices is simply fine. In fact, in this instance, it’s perfect.

So we continue to flounder, some days less than others, but our floundering is framed with laughter and joy and a few tears here and there. It’s the story of our lives these days, learning as we go. It’s also the bit of parenthood – the messy beautiful so full of love rollercoaster of a ride bit that no one shares because the no sleep world flipped upside down oh the horror stuff is just easier to talk about – that messy beautiful bit is the best bit.

And that’s the part that no one tells you: the messy beautiful bit is the. best. bit.

For every…

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I looked in the mirror this morning (above picture is NOT from this morning), and the first thought that registered was, wow, I look tired, and then, whoa, where did those wrinkles come from?  And then I chuckled because…

For every missing ounce of sleep, there is a little boy snuggled up beside mom all too early in the morning whispering the sweetest Hi! I ever did hear. There are little eyes, so very open, peering at a weary mom who is hoping for just a few more minutes rest. And there is the declaration, Bed – all done! that invariably follows.

For every new wrinkle on my face (see above: missing sleep), there is so much laughter and joy. Some tears…sad faces make for wrinkles too…but mostly joy. The lines follow the expression on my face when I’m laughing, smiling, living. They’re not faint lines either…but they are a by-product of laughter and joy, and I would not change them for a second.

For every moment when I wish for a breath of peace and quiet, there is a little voice squealing with delight over a plastic tea pot, a spatula, a ball cast giddily under the cabinets to be retrieved with a ‘ockey stick (hockey stick).

For every cup of hot coffee gone cold, there are morning snuggles and sloppily shared bites of cereal, sticky pancake fingers and spilled milk.

For every missed yoga class or leisurely long run, there are monkey bars and slides and so very many playgrounds to explore.

And, perhaps most poignant of all, for every new day, there is the constant reminder of just how much joy one small boy can bring to the lives of two grown (albeit weary) parents.

So for every every, there is a trade-off. And the trade-offs I have made of late? I’m okay with them.

Because that early morning hi? It’s irreplaceable.

A Letter to 2015.

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2015, you will be a year in which I:

* Plan a sweet family vacation. Don’t know when or where, but hopefully something that rival’s this year’s journey to England/Spain. Can be close to home or far, far away, but it must include all of us and we must live it up.

* Add two new passport stamps. We have Mexico in February and nothing scheduled aside from that. The Caribbean? Bermuda? Somewhere, we’ll go somewhere, the whole gang of us.

* Gift myself at least one hour a week of time just for me. No guilt, no chores, no one but me. Yoga, a walk, a magazine, whatever. One hour for me.

* Bake more bread. I failed at this in 2014, but 2015 is the time. Sourdough, I have my eyes on you.

* Really focus on shifting the priorities. Figure out what works for our family in terms of hour worked, hours at home, etc. Which is to say, deal with life’s bologna.

* The camera: figure it out. Really this time.

* Run a race. I don’t care how long or when or where or anything. But run one. Just ONE. Doable.

* Shift the chores to mid-week so the weekend becomes ours again. This one takes a little refocusing, but I think it’s feasible.

* At least once a month, find time for just me and Chris. A pint, a movie, a walk – whatever it is, just the two of us. We make one heck of a dynamic duo, and I would like to keep it that way – focus on us is a very good thing.

* Bake more. Once a month, bake something new and share it amongst friends.

* At least once a month, enjoy my coffee not to-go. Sit, sip, savor. It’s a simple pleasure.

So that is all, not too lofty but goals nonetheless. Keep it simple, focus on my little family, and embrace the simple. Oh, and travel. Always travel, always learn, always grow. It’s where we’re at our best.

2015, I have high hopes for you.

2014: a year in review

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Looking back at where I set my goals. 2014, how did we do?

Practice patience. Not as much with James and Chris – I’m generally pretty patient with them already – but with myself. Be kind to myself. Whether I admit it or not, I’ve got a lot on my plate, and I’m my worst critic. Now is the time to take a breath and just let my world be.

I suppose I did okay. I let go of a lot in terms of letting the days guide me without thought of where they might go or why, but I still found myself trying to do too much all the time. I know some of it is the nature of life right now, but some of it is self-imposed. This one is a work in progress.

* Along the same lines as the a lot on my plate notion, evaluate what’s on my plate.  Get rid of the junk, savor the good stuff.  Find more time for the good stuff by minimizing time wasted on the junk.  I kid myself with no elusions of finding more time. 

Well, I certainly evaluated what’s on the plate, but I can’t say I was overly successful in changing much. I do take more time to soak in the good stuff…but the crap is still there. That might just be life as a grownup.

* Celebrate my son’s first birthday.  Bake him a cake (a wee one for a wee lad), buy some balloons, share in the joy. Reflect on what the past year has meant not only for him, but also for me and Chris.  Ponder just how far we have come, because, by god, we’ve come a long way.

Celebrate we did! With a sick little guy, but a celebration nonetheless. And a store-bought cake, but who cares, he was happy. There were balloons and a piñata and so much guacamole – we had one heck of a first fiesta. There was also a lot of reflection and joy in that we had a rough winter with a sick baby a lot of the time, and birthday numero uno marked a turning point to a healthier boy.

* Earn another stamp or two in the old passport.  One will be Mexico in January.  Where will the next be?

Mexico, bingo bango. And then England and Spain! We nailed this one. Absolutely nailed it with so much freaking travel joy it’s hard to describe. The little dude was incredible; we savored every second; and we finally found time to just be. 2014 travel did not disappoint.

* The four generations get away. Figure out how to make it happen. 

Please let this happen in 2015. We had lots of visits, but no getaways. Plan it!

* Hone the camera skills. Read about it, practice it…learn it.

A work in progress to say the least.

* North Dakota or South Carolina: make it happen.

Fail.

* Same with you, chicken coop. Make it happen.

Fail again. Boo.

* Sew. Cushions for the kitchen chairs. Curtains. What have you. Be domestic. 

Kitchen chairs: check. Curtains? Umm, nope. Moderate fail on this one.

* Run another half marathon. This one with the husband. Part of it with the kid.

Wishful thinking. Lots of running, just no half marathon. 2015?

* Reflect on what this body of mine has accomplished in the past few years, because goddammit, it’s impressive. Ponder what it will accomplish again in the next few years.

Check and check. Feeling good, proud, content.

* Bake more bread.  In the literal sense, not in the that’s-a-cute-metaphor-for-having-another-kid sense. NOT YET.

Fail. 2015, I’m looking at you.

* Yoga. At least once a week. Because it feels good. 

Moderate fail. Again, 2015.

* Smile. Laugh. Soak it all in (this should be an easy bullet to accomplish – I excel at smiles and laughter).

Yes, yes, and yes. One of my biggest successes of 2014.

* Think gratitude. Maybe even start writing about it. Three things per day. So far today I have my morning smoothie, a free cup of Starbucks, and one more to go. What else will I feel grateful for today? The sun on my back. An up-coming vacation. Practice gratitude.

Umm, ehh. I did okay but wasn’t as intentional about this one as I would like. Again, 2015.

* Likewise, practice kindness. Always, always, always.

Success on this one. Maybe not as much to myself as I would have liked, but overall, a pretty solid year.

So we met some goals and we missed some, but 2014, you were an adventure for sure. If 2015 shares half as much joy, we’re in for one heck of a ride.

Pondering…

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So it has been a while and now here I am, back pondering thoughts and scribbling them down on a screen (and staring at this photo I adore from sometime in July). Since we’ve been gone, we’ve given thanks and made our way almost to Christmas (a week and a day to go!). We’ve had adventures close to home, adventures at home, and adventures a little bit away from home. Weekends have been busy but nice, lots of time spent as a dynamic trio, me, Christopher, and Jamesey.  It has been a busy season, but also a quiet one, and quiet seasons tend to get the wheels turning.

There’s a level of discontent – or maybe discomfort? – right now. A lack of patience. These days feel important. I like to soak in the time with my little boy and my sweet husband and to enjoy the moments we have because we spend far too much time apart, click-clacking away at keyboards while doing our best to make our way in the world. But I often wonder…is all of that click-clacking necessary or is some of it just extra, invasive, unnecessary? I’m sure it’s the latter. But how to remedy it? How to take the first step away from the routine as we know it and define a new path? That’s what we don’t know. I’m not talking some grand change here. More like a small, subtle change. A change that feels a little bit like a hug for the soul. A change that means choosing my boys over some other silly things and feeling so very right about it.

The question, as always, is how and when to make that shift, and that is what remains unknown. So for now, I embrace the time with the boys, step away from the computer despite the draw to yap about all of our sweet adventures, and just be.

This season, do less stuff.

Just be.

A close to home weekend adventure

James pizza 2 James pizza

So we took a (Saturday/)Sunday drive, and the only photos I took are the two above. Two blurry, two not so cute. Fortunately the rest of our weekend was neither blurry nor not so cute, so hurrah! Where did we go?

Well, what better time for a getaway than the weekend before Thanksgiving?! Chris had a rugby tournament in Pittsfield, so James and I tagged along. Were it not so cold, perhaps I would have taken pictures, but perhaps not. The pitch, as they call it, was beautiful - in the background sat the Berkshire mountains, in the foreground grown men grunted and clattered and crashed and groaned. James and I spent our time going back and forth between the giant playground and the pile of rugby equipment. James made neat little rows of every rugby ball he could find. And then we go cold and cranky, so we went to find lunch. Finding lunch turned into not finding lunch for longer than a 19 month old was willing to wait, so we had a screaming car ride, just me and the boy. And then we found lunch! And took two pictures. And James sat pleasantly the entire time, ate a TON of pizza, and was just the most delightful little lunch date I have ever had. Such a scene will most likely not be repeated again anytime soon – really, it was impressive. A genius also decided that running an electric train around the perimeter of the restaurant would be a good idea, so James was happily entertained there. I’m telling you, brilliant.

Anyways, back to rugby after pizza, More cold, more rugged men covered in dirt. Fun! Then onward to our stopping point for the night, Northampton, MA. We didn’t have plans to do anything per say, but we rarely have such plans. So we went to a brewery, ordered some Thai takeout, and hunkered down in the hotel for the night.

Sunday morning started earlier than we would have liked with a 5am wakeup call from the little boy. The little boy with a 101.7 fever! We had our hopes that he was just overheated from his pj’s and sleepsack and a warm hotel room, but still – that was hot. So some Tylenol and Lucky Charms later, we went for a swim. He loved it! He jumped off the side to Dad, blew bubbles, squiggled with glee. Sweet little water baby. And then onward we went, to a playground, for a walk, to eat Mexican food, and finally home where we still have the entire afternoon ahead of ourselves because Sundays are really long when you start them at 5.

So that was that, a weekend away. A weekend with no work around the house, no chores, no work. Just play. And it was lovely.

A progress check on the Fall 2014 Travel Bucket List

IMG_0145We set out a while ago to come up with our Fall 2014 Travel Bucket List, and now that the days are short and the temperatures have dropped, it seems appropriate to check in with a status update.

Let’s see how we’ve done, shall we?

Local (a lot of these adventures have marked the return of the Sunday drivers):

  • New England Aquarium: we made it once and have plans to go back. Success!
  • Legal Seafoods: we tried but the place was a zoo. Still on the list, and boy will that chowdah taste good.
  • Russell Orchards. Fail. It might remain that way, but so it goes. Next year!
  • The beach with the singing sand: every Wednesday and tomorrow. The water still sparkles.
  • Appleton Farms.  Cheeeeeeeeese. And cows.  But really, cheeeeeeeeeese. Sunday?
  • Hikes, so many hikes: I wouldn’t say we’ve been on so many, but we’ve done a couple and they’ve been great. Moderately successful here.

Not-so-local:

  • Colorado! A whopping success. We had a great trip full of friends, family, and laughter. As always, the time passed too quickly, but we so enjoyed the time we had.
  • Vermont: Fail. Big, fat fail. It doesn’t look like it’s going to happen either, but we’re shifting it to the winter list.
  • The Berkshires because I (and we) have never been: couple weekends from now this one can have a big checkmark next to its name. Hurrah!

International:

  • England to visit these two crazy gals: So incredibly successful. We had the best time, the best trip, so much fun. I would do it again in a heartbeat.
  • Spain to relax by the beach, practice the Spanish, eat some tapas, enjoy the downtime: It was perfect, magnificent, everything we could have wanted. A true lesson in why traveling with a kid is simply the best.
  • And for an added bonus, I threw Nigeria into the mix. Not a planned adventure, but an adventure for sure.

I would say we have had a busy Fall of travel. Daunting to some, but bread and butter to us. Let’s hope the coming seasons share some similar flavor, because we have had FUN, so very much fun.

The vacation word explosion

Beach pondererFor a while now James has graced me with the sweet, sweet sound of Mom-mom, and he has had a few other words as well, but vacation really marked that tipping point I’ve heard many moms speak of where the kid just starts to talk. He mimicked so many sounds on vacation that I hadn’t heard before, and he found his words.  So many!

The list:

  • Bath
  • Book
  • More (and mas!)
  • Please (I’ll give him the world when that sweet little voice squeaks, pwease?)
  • Boost (as in, Dad, give me a boost!)
  • Chip
  • Dip
  • Cups
  • Body (as in Bodyyyyy Slam!)
  • Step
  • Beach
  • Bus
  • Diap (as in diaper)

Crazy, just crazy. Since we got home he melted my heart once again when he figured out how to say Grampa (gam-paaaah). And gracias!

Wee little dude is growing up!

Spain: Old Town Marbella

We took a quick afternoon jaunt to Old Town Marbella one afternoon, in search of (what else?) a nice stroll, a quick pint, and a few snacks. It was worth the trip!

IMG_0550Much like the rest of our outings, we didn’t do anything per say, but we did walk for hours, soak in a little sun, enjoy a few snacks, and breathe in pure relaxation.

IMG_0548We also managed to find a craft beer at one tiny little spot hidden amongst the cobblestone streets. I’m certain we couldn’t find it again if we tried!

IMG_0558A bit less hidden was this spot where James enjoyed his afternoon nap. Patatas bravas, mussels, and a pint for Mom and Dad.

IMG_0547And this…beautiful, idyllic Old Town Marbella at its best.

IMG_0540We couldn’t get away without exploring a local playground once Jamesey woke up, so here he is, a little boy full of joy on a BIG slide!

IMG_0564And that was it, our afternoon in Old Town Marbella. Simple, yet delightful, much like the rest of our time in Spain.

Spain: the return to Sevilla and a side trip to Ronda

So we took a day trip while in Spain, an ambitious twelve hour day trip. It was great, and James only hated his car seat for about two hours of it, so all in all, we call it a success. The impetus was a return to Sevilla, my college study abroad home. We made it a loop: two and a half hours up to Sevilla, another couple hours to Ronda, and a quick hour home. Not too shabby, thought the hopeful travelers. And it wasn’t! Again, it was a bit long, but overall, a great adventure.

We begin in Sevilla where our time consisted of a tour of Kara’s old existence. Chris indulged me; James just kept his eyes peeled for playgrounds and/or ice cream vendors. Stop one after a stop for wine and snacks (okay, so stop two) was la Plaza de Pilatos and my old home! We found the casa! James was less thrilled than me, but so it goes. At one point in time that window in the upper right was my room (the one right above me, the living room – the one on the left, the kitchen).  Memories…

IMG_0594Lingering too long was not a choice though, so onward we strolled to the park where I enjoyed many a bocadillo (packed lunch) with my friends. It doesn’t feel that long ago…

IMG_0596Park tour complete, we strolled along the river for a while before heading back to the car and on to our next town: the little cliff-side village of Ronda.

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(That picture is still Sevilla!)

Ronda was good for a long walk, some time at the playground, some sand in James’ shoes, a snack, and a quick break from the drive. The town was beautiful and really perched right on the cliff – pretty impressive and a wonderful stop after quite a bit of time in the car.

IMG_0642 IMG_0637 IMG_0621 IMG_0619 IMG_0618There you have it, twelve hours of driving around Spain, wrapped up in a quick little post. The drive down from Ronda offered some nervous hairpin turns, but thankfully the passenger had a safe driver and a beautiful sunset to guide her home.

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