ONEderful Wilson

I have been fully anticipating this first birthday of the last baby to be surrounded by ALL the feels. It probably still will be. But here, on the eve of the eve of her turning one, that also happens to be just before Thanksgiving, I find that what I feel most right now is grateful.

The last year has flown by, as they seem to do faster and faster as we age. It has also been a flurry of activity with a house and heart (and van and calendar) full of beautiful children, so it is really no surprise that I blinked and now my baby is turning one. The time warp began, I suppose, during her first three weeks of life at the NICU, when it felt like we lived an entire lifetime on another planet in those 22 days, but now, all these months later, I have finally gained an ounce of perspective and can see it for the blip that so many friends reassured me it would eventually be.

Oh, I am still going to cry on Wilson’s first birthday. Don’t you worry about that. But instead of reliving the trauma and stress of those first, hard weeks, I think the waterworks will be based more in gratitude that we got to survive them and come home with a healthy baby who has made it to the year mark and now has glorious words like “typical” ascribed to her.

Of course to us, she is everything, and I can’t imagine our family without her. I think it is safe to say the rest of the children agree, as they all take such joy in being around her. I mean, she’s clearly been LT’s favorite person in the whole universe since the very beginning, and lately Truman has started calling her “my baby” in conversation, so good luck to those two in figuring out who is her No.1 fan (it’s Lincoln). Raegan loves on her baby sister all the time and has the best-ever baby-talking-to-voice that cracks me up when I hear it because that must be how we coo at WA all the time. And HD has a stellar theory that he’d love to share with you sometime about how babies make everyone happier (he’s not wrong), because Wilson does indeed brighten every day with her snuggles, smiles, and silly sounds.

Many of those snuggles still come directly on my right hip where she still mostly clings when out in public or around non-immediate family. But she also loves to crawl really fast all over our house and she super loves when I get down on the floor with her so she can crawl up, bump into me, spin around, and flop back against my torso in order to lounge belly-up and check out the world (no wonder we’ve started calling her “Puppy” – we totally need to stop doing that, though!). And just like she did in her first three weeks, Wilson has used this entire year to show us that we really don’t know all that much about babies because she has time and time and time again proved that she’s going to do her own thing, in her own way, in her own time.

So here is who Wilson is at One:

She is the baby of head butting and thumb sucking. She clears the entire shelf of board books in less than 10 seconds and then sits in the pile of books playing with them (apple, tree, *ahem*). She wears PJs pretty much 24/7 because she has to be in and out of the van eleventy-billion times each day to get the Bigs to their various schools and footies work better than socks to keep her feet warm. She pulls up next to furniture and is currently flirting with the idea of standing up from her little chair/the middle of nowhere (look out world!). She empties kitchen drawers like a boss and she speed crawls to be next to my speaker so she can sway and bounce and clap to the music I have playing throughout the day (yes, she loves Nahko. I mean, c’mon!). She tucks her head into my shoulder when people try to talk to her and when I sing her a lullaby before naps/bed. She has more hair/curls than any of our others at this age (even Baby HD). She pulls a head-tilt-and-smile charm move that you would swear we taught her but I swear we did not (unless Truman did; that seems plausible).

Even though I will probably spend the next few days reliving the early days of her life to some extent, I plan to stay grounded in the present as much as possible because to be at this incredible milestone with this incredible baby is such a blessing. I give thanks for her every time I get to snuggle her (so, a lot of time each day) and I will continue to do so for all our days.

She is (almost) one. She is full of wonder. She is wonderful. She is, forever, Wonder Wilson.

Advertisements

Longest Winter Ever??

We’ve had hard months before, no doubt (April, I’m looking at you). There have been some periods in our parenting where everything felt like a lot, and maybe a bit too much. But I don’t know that we have ever had six+ weeks of one after another illnesses that have left us with little more than a 48 hour window in which maybe all seven of us were feeling OK-ish.

Friends, I don’t know how I am going to do it if this trend that started the first week of October continues all winter. Because as you may know, we aren’t even TO winter yet, so holy moly cow. Please, please, please don’t let our fall be any indication of what is to come when actual cold and flu season arrives.

Our baby is one week away from being a year old and yet Ben and I both still feel like we are in Newborn Sleep Dep Mode. Trying to sleep with coughing and feverish kids one after the next, but rarely at the same time sick, has been exhausting on a whole new level. I told my mom last night that I felt like I’d been run over by a bus (this was after surviving an illness-induced meltdown with the 5yo for 15 minutes in the waiting room at the orthodontist because I had no choice but to be there solo with all five children) which is before the same child then had us up in the middle of the night and then sleeping lightly (read: crapily – what that’s not a word?) the rest of the night wondering what would come next. So maybe today feels more like being hit by a train than a bus?

img_2256Of course this is the day (night) B has conferences at school and RL has visitation at dance which I now have to bag out on because I have to stay home with her sick brother, so clearly the feeling of being plowed over isn’t just the physical exertion, it’s also the mental strain of being constantly worried about if you are doing enough to take care of one child (or more) while knowing you are also letting down another one (or more).

Normally there’s a “so what” to my posts, so chalk it up to my tired brain or my tired spirit, but I’m not sure I have a point in writing this beyond saying: This is hard. Of course we can do hard things, but This. Is. HARD. And it feels forever-happening at this point. So maybe that part will change and everything will feel a little less intense? Goodness, that would be nice.

No Time for Time Frames

As all aspects of life do, my journey with body image struggles and body dysmorphia have had an ebb and flow feeling to them in the last year. At times I have been far too (read: entirely) consumed by the tasks of mothering and me-ing to be all too concerned about how my body looked and if I was “getting that post-baby” body back. At others I have been bogged down by the very fact that no, I am not getting that.

But honestly, after nine years of pregnancies (I found out just after Thanksgiving, 2008 about the first and delivered the fifth just before Thanksgiving 2017), what does that body even mean? What exactly would it even look like? Does any 36 yr old much resemble their 26 yr old self? With or without child bearing and birth?

I think what’s getting under my skin right now (beyond the fact that my three oldest children are of that age and we are of that stage where they’ve maybe been trained to start expecting a pregnancy announcement sometime soon [nope; never again] and keep making ridiculous statements about my belly) is that Wilson’s almost a year old. That means I’ve totally passed the sort-of accepted “40 weeks in/40 weeks out” time frame in which we give moms out to “bounce” back.

Yeah. Not much bouncing around here, folks.

I could give you a laundry list of reasons as to why (laundry could be one of them, come to think of it) this is so. The one that interests me most currently is that as much as I still feel societal and internal pressure to be as trim/fit/what-have-you as I have been before, I also am working really, really hard to just be OK with what IS.

And this is me:

img_2164

For the last month, I’ve hardly worn jeans or real pants. It’s been leggings and workout pants and sweats on constant repeat [Full disclosure: it’s probably going to stay like that for a while because my littlest two littles keep sharing germs with each other and me]. So I don’t really have my normal markers of knowing how things fit to gauge how I feel. (I haven’t been on a scale and actually seen the weight on it in five years. I can’t know those numbers and also know my sanity). I have still been doing my 30 minutes a day of yoga, but even that hasn’t been enough to keep the negative thought spiral from happening lately. Clearly, I have to keep working on that, and part of that acceptance and moving through it is honesty.

That pants in that picture (in which my shirt matches the wall AND my phone)? Those are maternity leggings and I LOVE them. I bought them last year to get me through the end of Wilson’s pregnancy. They were a size bigger than I normally wear in maternity clothes. And I’m still wearing them now, just shy of her first birthday. And they’re not all that loose. And you know what? That is what is. Am I thrilled about it? Not really. But does it define me? Hardly.

My weight at my six-week post-delivery appointment with Baby Lincoln is what sent me to counseling in the first place for body image concerns. I just knew I couldn’t keep living with that pressure. While the pressure and the thought spiral both still exist and get worse some times more than others for me, I can look at these leggings that I love, that I never thought I’d still be wearing and say: OK. Here is where I am in this body right now. Time frames and pressure to be different be damned.

I know I won’t feel quite this OK with what is every day, but any day that I can get a little bit of that peace? I’ll take it, leggings and all.

 

 

You Gotta Be

Recently I had to tell someone “no” to a request of my time. Full disclosure, I had already (many, many months ago) told them “yes,” so my “no” was totally a backing out which isn’t great to do, but sometimes it is just as necessary as it is shitty.

As has been pretty clear on the sparse, random posts of this month, 95% of October has kicked our butts. After the baby got sick and everyone else either recovered or maintained health, I got a full-on seven day sore throat that wrecked the majority of last week for me. I am just now, on the 29th of the month, sort of coming out of the fog of travel and sickness and pure on exhaustion. So no, when I got the call to remind about the thing I said I’d do darn near a year ago, “yes” could no longer be my answer even though I knew that was going to be displeasing and problematic for the asker.

I get it. It sucks when people leave you hanging. But it also sucks when you run yourself ragged for the sake of others. And I was honest. It would have been easy to lie and say that I had an appointment and couldn’t be there. But instead I straight up said we’ve had a crazy, draining month and that I. Just. Couldn’t. Do. It.

Let me be real for a second….

I have no day time help (minus the fact that Ben can alternate preschool pickup with me most of the every-other days). I run a shuttle service. I am a professional waiter (not of food, but of time during speech and before/after preschool). I provide all the food, play, naps, bathroom duties, and the million other jobs of a daycare provider/SAH parent. I also own a business and work a separate job from home (which is bonkers hard, y’all, when your little people are still in that same home with you all the live-long days). I survive on coffee, social media, uplifting and also snarky GIFs and messages with my girlfriends, and books. And yoga. Always yoga. I don’t get to go out for lunch because I can’t afford a babysitter, much less find one, and my sweet 11 month old baby still won’t let anyone besides B hold her, so no. I don’t really have much effort or energy left for commitments outside the home because my home sucks every last drop out of me.

Clearly I feel guilty for backing out. You see that, right? But I’m writing this to remind myself of two things: 1) it is 110% OK to put my own air mask on first by saying “no” to something I don’t want to do. Even if it doesn’t feel that way, it IS. And 2) when I am no longer in this stage of parenting, may I please forever remember that when I ask something of a mama who IS still in it, that I always, always lead with, “How can I help?”

img_2032

Dissent

In the two weeks since my trip to DC, which happened to be roughly two days in which I lived at least three lifetimes, we have had non-stop child sickness in our house which has made this October the longest of Octobers in the history of ever and not in a cute pumpkin and scarf/boot kind of way. Truman took 13 days to recover. Raegan is on Day 6, and Wilson is on Day 1.5.

It has been an intense month.

And, needless to say, the sleep deficit around here as of late has also been bonkers, which hasn’t helped how any of us are feeling about this October to end all Octobers.

Also cast to the wayside with my sleep, really, has been my time to recover and process all that went down in DC. In fact, I am still dealing with the intensity of emotions surrounding my experience both in DC and that which led me to be part of that trip. The 48 odd hours that I was actually gone were packed with so much effort, on so many levels, that I legit had nothing left to give when it came to anything outside of our lobby tasks.

No sight-seeing. No souvenir shopping (except for keychains for the children at the airport). No friend/family visiting on the East Coast. No protests or marches even because just to do our prep work and meetings was enough to take it out of this first time advocate.

And that’s OK.

It was a matter of self-care to give myself permission to set all else aside and just be there for what was asked of me for the trip. (Have I mentioned yet how incredible and trauma-aware the ACLU folks were before, during, and after our Senate staff meetings? I know that part of my empowerment and strength those two days came directly from them being so supportive of and sensitive to their audience. From the language they used in emails to the pre-Hill trainings and stress-management techniques they shared with us, they has us covered. And you know the yoga teacher in me loved the breathing techniques they shared with the group.)

Why I still don’t really feel recovered two weeks later, though, is because life carries on. Especially when you have little Littles still in the picture, you don’t get to go off and be an adult only and then come home and still be an individual, too. I dove head first into advocacy and then head first back into parenting, and the super exhausting kind of parenting, too, where you are worried about and tending too a million extra germ-induced tasks each day. But that doesn’t mean I haven’t still been fighting the good fight.

Contrary to what some folks seem to think, I did not go in to this experience under a false assumption that it would definitely yield the results I wanted. Not at all. I knew, based on my Senators’ voting records and tendencies that neither I nor the group I traveled with would be likely to change their minds. But that was no reason not to go and I am glad I did not let that likelihood keep me from saying “yes” to the offer.

Using your voice, even when it shakes, even when you know it is likely to fall on deaf ears (which are often quite synonymous with closed minds)? That is dissent, my friends, and it is good and right to still let your voice cry out even when you know the decision has already been made.

Semi-side note: In case you can’t tell, I have been obsessed with Ruth Bader Ginsberg lately. As in, read a book, located a documentary, and ordered my very own version of her dissent necklace (half of the proceeds of each one sold go to some pretty rockin’ charities), all in the last two weeks. So this, along with a wall print of the shot of our lobby group that was taken on the steps of the Russell Senate Building after our meetings, is how I commemorate my trip and the use of my voice, even when it turned out ultimately to be one of dissent, not (yet) direct change.

img_1946

To the Melting Mamas amidst Meltdowns

By the end of church every Sunday, I am undone. I am sweaty. I am covered in drool and Goldfish remnants. I am also usually so taxed from sitting through 1 hr and 15 minutes of controlled time with my herd of children in the pews that by the time we get home, I am cranky and/or want to curl up in Child’s Pose and not move for at least 1 hr and 15 minutes (which, PS, is never, ever possible).

I am a literal and figurative mess on Sunday mornings.

And you know what? I attend a church that loves kids. They and their noises and their antics are welcomed on a regular basis and often I get mad props and big love just for being there with my five.

The last couple weeks, though, when I have had to wrestle a baby who can’t be put down and won’t go to anyone but her daddy (& even then only for short bursts of time) and monitor four other Littles who are busy, busy, busy in the balcony where we sit (and because summer won’t die, sweat), I find myself questioning why I bother.

Wouldn’t it be easier to stay at home with the baby? To watch the service on FB and let Ben take the kids to Sunday School? To only go to service when one of our crew is singing or playing bells?

Well, yes. That would be much easier. But we started attending this church as a family and we feel that the church is part of our family, so bailing and watching from the sidelines doesn’t feel like a real option. We want our children to be part of this community and they aren’t going to get that if we ourselves are not part of it.

That being said, an innocent enough comment got tossed my way after service today (ironic giving the sermon on “Taming the Tongue”) that took a self-deprecating joke I had made and shot it down with the message of: nope. not good enough. you’re not doing enough.¬†And I lost it.

Not in immediate response. I held my tongue in the moment and bailed out a side door so no one would have to see my tears, but I share it now because are you kidding me? Even in jest or innocent jokes? Just as the sermon said today, words matter. And I am literally sweating my way through every service like it’s a gym workout to make sure my kids are there but not too distracting, that we are a part of it all, and the absolute last thing I need is to be made to feel like I am somehow failing. Because trust me, it’s easy enough to think that on my own.

So, please: mad props and big love only, OK? I’m doing my best to extend grace, to others and myself, and if you are one of the mamas melting and trying to tame meltdowns every week at church, I see you. No jokes about it. You are enough and your efforts are of value.

 

Minivan Moments

It is no secret to parents that you can sometimes have the best conversations with your kids when you are driving. There is something about the road or the slightly averted eyes that makes it a safe and comfortable place to chat.

Many days when I pick my biggest two up after school, they are talking shouting over each other to tell me stories as we make the all-too-short-to-fit-it-all-in drive back home. And then, just to be helpful, Truman starts chiming in, “Me turn! ME! TURN!” as if I haven’t been around him all day and already heard all his stories. 3yos, man. What a hoot.

This year, though, because my kids are in a two-year temporary building for school, our drive TO school in the mornings has gotten longer. Originally they were riding the bus but the schedule changed (insert eye roll here) and it became far more convenient just to drive them the extra distance instead of heading to the bus stop earlier. And what I have found on these mornings (besides the fact that I need to drink my coffee BEFORE the 7:30-9:00 drop-off craziness of every day) is that my kids and I have some pretty cool chats during those extra early minutes together in the car.

It is during these drives that I get to hear about what is going on at school that day or how things are going with so-and-so and this-and-that in their classrooms. This is when we get to quick review what we have going on later in the day so everyone is (sort of, mostly, kind of) on the same page after school. And this is when they get to just ask me whatever or tell me whatever is floating around their (pretty darn awesome) brains.

I really dig it.

And, because this one cracked me up, I have to share one of our conversations from last week….

As some of you know, HD decided to apply for Student Council this year. The day the applications came home, he told me he wanted to do it and he already had in mind his platform proposal (my words, not the school’s). He wanted to assign student helpers, student janitors, if you will) to help so the custodian wouldn’t have to do as much to keep the bathrooms clean.

“You know, Mom, like I do? They could push down the paper towels in the trash and stuff?”

Love him.

So. We talked about his answers to the application questions and he filled it out, took it back on time, and was told that yes, he could indeed run for StuCo. Yay!

Then, last Thursday morning, when we had approximately 20 minutes before we had to head out the door and I still had lunches to throw together, he tells me that he needs a speech to present to his peers. That day.

Oof.

My Mama heart freaked. I wanted to help him but I didn’t want to do it for him and he was right that he did not have enough time to write it all out himself.

So. We compromised. While I made lunches, he told me his ideas and I wrote out an outline on a half sheet of paper. I then handed it to him, told him to give me his speech, and lo and behold a future debator was born – he did it. He used that outline and elaborated and it was just cool to watch him do that so easily. He practiced a couple times¬† (“Mom, time me to make sure I’m under the time limit!”) and then we were out the door and in the van.

On this particular morning drive, after we had just done the mad-dash outline save, after a week of applications and conversations, is when Harrison decided to ask me, “Mom? What’s Student Council?”

Friends, it took everything in my being not to burst out laughing that he waited until that moment to make that inquiry, but instead I did my best to answer and away we went across town to school where he did share his ideas with his classmates and he was in fact elected to that mysterious entity otherwise known as Student Council.

Bless his heart. So proud of him. So entertained by him in that moment. So glad to have a few extra minutes with them all in the morning, even though the in-out-load-and-go of it all is a damn circus every day. To be a witness to their development and their personalities is worth it. And, thanks to the change up in my coffee routine, I’m coherent enough to remember the funnies that pop up along the way.

img_1465